Through the District of Columbia’s new “Books From Birth” literacy initiative, children under 5 years old will be eligible to have a free book sent to their houses every month.
The goal of the program, officially launched by the D.C. Public Library yesterday, is to encourage parents to read to their children and to help address achievement gaps early on, D.C. officials say.
There’s consensus among researchers and educators that exposing young children to broad and varied language, including by reading to them, is beneficial to later academic achievement. A landmark 20-year-old study estimated that by age 3, children in poverty have heard 30 million fewer words than their more affluent peers (though subsequent research has found that the gap may not be quite that large).
The District of Columbia has set aside about $450,000 for marketing, staffing, and materials for the program’s first year, the Associated Press reports. There are about 40,000 children under age 5 living in D.C. Since the program’s soft launch last month, about 3,000 families have already signed up.
Imagination Library, a nonprofit child literacy program started by country singer Dolly Parton, will provide the books. That program already sends free books to more 750,000 children in the U.S. and Canada each month.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.