"Reading is not optional."
As NBCDI collaborates with our Affiliates and national partners, we have chosen to focus on the particular strengths and needs of Black children and families in the broader context of a shared goal: ensuring that all children are reading proficiently by the end of 3rd grade. NBCDI has chosen to adopt this overarching objective in response to data demonstrating both the critical nature of this educational benchmark and the devastating performance of Black children, only 15 percent of whom are reading proficiently in 4th grade. Several of our Affiliate communities have signed onto the Campaign for Grade Level Reading and are doing their part to help children embrace reading and improve their academic performance.
Love to Read has long been the National Black Child Development Institute's early literacy public education initiative. As part of this initiative, NBCDI has recently partnered to implement programs in our Affiliate communities with Raising A Reader, a national nonprofit organization offering local agencies an evidence-based, early literacy and family engagement program. Raising A Reader's partnership with NBCDI serves more than 100 pre-k children and their families to foster healthy brain development and early literacy skills critical for children's school success. By working with Raising A Reader, NBCDI aims to improve literacy levels within African American communities by engaging families and helping them develop an at-home literacy routine with proven results that link to academic and life success.
NBCDI is currently working in collaboration with the JetBlue Soar with Reading program to bring book vending machines to Southeast Washington, D.C., an area described as a book desert. The innovative program provides children with access to free books. Three machines are installed in a local church, grocery store and branch of the Salvation Army.
In addition, NBCDI is grateful for the support of our volunteers, Dr. Toni Walters, Dr. Vivian Johnson, and Dr. Jonella Mongo, who have been creating Between the Covers over the last decade. A feature in NBCDI's Child Health Talk newsletter, and a popular conference workshop, Between the Covers is an ongoing effort to compile developmentally-appropriate and culturally-relevant books for our children that showcase African-American authors and illustrators.