This holiday season, Transform Rockford is partnering with Midland States Bank, Rockford Pubic Library and numerous local organizations to create the Community-Wide Holiday Book Drive. Our goal: gather 3,000 new or mint-condition children’s books (for infants to preschoolers) to help us bridge the winter break reading gap for Rockford-area children.

From November 4 through November 30, bring your donations to any public library branch, Midland States Bank branch, YMCA branch or Rockford Police Department district office. Your donations will be gift-wrapped and distributed to local families through schools and early learning organizations.

Here are three ways those books can change a family:

  1. Close the Vocabulary Gap

Reading is a fun and easy way to introduce children to new words, and new words help to build a young mind’s understanding of the world. It starts gradually, as a baby – “truck” – and moves to ever-more complex descriptions – “big, red dump truck” – as time goes by.

Researchers Hart and Risley discovered in 1995 that 86-98% of a 3-year-old’s vocabulary is derived from their parents.

That’s not just spoken words. Students who have been read to are learning all forms of new words and complex ideas on topics like animals, machines, emotions, manners, and even rhymes.

  1. Prepare a Student for Kindergarten

Reading helps kids build new skills and prepare for life in school. Kindergarten is where they develop social/emotional skills – something already familiar to children who’ve been read to. As they sit on a parent’s lap reading books, children are learning from the characters and from their caregivers. They’re learning to turn pages, follow directions, pay attention. They’re also fielding lots of questions: “What’s that animal? What’s a doggy say? What’s going to happen next?”

Developing reading skills prior to kindergarten helps students learn how to read by 3rd grade which is a key point for academic success all the way through high school.  When our kids learn to read young, academic outcomes improve through the remainder of their academic career.

  1. Instill a Sense of Pride in Learning

Borrowing a book from the library is pretty fun, and it’s an easy way to enjoy a variety of books. But children who have their own books at home have something else that’s pretty awesome: a sense of pride in their favorite story. No matter how many times they read that book, they’re developing critical skills with whoever is reading it to them. And, in time, it’s teaching them how to read. That’s empowering for a young mind.

For more information about the Book Drive or to donate, visit www.transformrockford.org or call 815.977.5840.