A family that reads together learns together. (Courtesy photo)

A literacy advocacy organization in D.C. kicked the year off with a special community event, with the goal of bringing fully stocked bookshelves and culturally relevant reading material to the homes of children of color.

The Bookshelf Project, initiated by the Black Child Development Institute-DC Metropolitan (BCDI-DC Metro) in collaboration with the National Black Child Development Institutes (NBCDI) held the Jan. 27 event at the THEARC campus in Southeast, where dozens of parents and young children were given access to new in-home libraries, free books, lunch and snacks.

“What an exciting event,” said a mother of two in attendance. “I heard about this event through a friend and I am so thankful that I came. Literally, you come to the event and they present you with a bookshelf to take home. … I have two children — Britney, who is 5, and Samantha, who is 7 — and they both love to read. Education is so important and the earlier they start reading, the better, especially now that they have something new and nice to put nice new books on.”

According to the State of Adult Literacy Report, nearly 36 percent, or 170,000, of the District’s children are functionally illiterate, compared with 21 percent nationwide. Of that 36 percent, the majority are Black and brown.

Through the BCDI-DC Metro, which is part of the national resource agency NBCDI, children of color are given the opportunity to participate in publications, advocacy and trainings related to early childhood care and education; health and wellness; literacy and family engagement, and other varied educational programs, including “Raising A Reader,” which to date has helped NBCDI serve more than 100 pre-K children and their families.

“I just think events like these help to foster healthy brain development and early literacy skills that are critical for children’s success in school,” one parent said. “So many of our students and children fall behind in school and the main factors are always math and reading. The Bible says ‘give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he’ll eat forever.’ Too many times we as parents, myself included, rely on the teacher to teach our kids the ‘right’ way, but they’re just one person and we’re the parents. We have to make more time for our children and teach them the right way so that they don’t fall behind.”

A repeat event will be held Feb. 24 from 1-4 p.m.

Lauren Poteat is a versatile writer with a strong background in communications and media experience with an additional background in education and development.

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