- Our Story|
- Faculty and staff|
- Public Relations|
Efforts to help young children in Virginia learn to read got a boost recently thanks to a fundraiser organized by two recent VCU graduates.
More than 200 new and gently used children’s books were collected at the benefit for Reach Out and Read, a national organization that promotes early literacy and school readiness.
The event was organized by PhantPR, a new public relations firm formed by 2011 graduates Courtney Smith (public relations) and Nantasha Williams (politics and government). The company focuses on event planning, branding and other services for up-and-coming artists, small businesses and nonprofits.
The benefit, called the Live Art Showcase, was held April 26 at Current Restaurant in downtown Richmond. Smith and Williams asked patrons to donate money or books for children age 6 months to 5 years old. All proceeds went to the Virginia affiliate of Reach Out and Read.
“We work with doctors to provide books for young children,” said Susan Rockwell, executive director of the state branch. “We encourage parents to read with children for 20 minutes a day.”
Reach Out and Read began in Boston and now operates nationwide. Working through pediatricians and other health-providers, the group dispenses books and advice to new parents.
The organization boasts impressive numbers: This year, its 28,500 volunteer doctors and nurses will provide 6.5 million new books to more than 4 million children at nearly 5,000 health-care locations in all 50 states.
Those books pay off. Children participating in Reach Out and Read score higher on vocabulary tests and school readiness assessments, according to studies commissioned by the organization.
The group’s website says that the program can address the crisis in U.S. public schools:
“More than one-third of American children enter kindergarten without the basic language skills they will need to learn to read. Those critical early literacy skills include recognizing the letters of the alphabet, understanding that books move from left to right, and being able to understand and tell stories.”
“Reach Out and Read is such an efficient and effective concept,” Earl Martin Phalen, the chief executive officer of the national organization, said in a statement. “Promoting early literacy and school readiness through regular pediatric checkups is a simple model that has a lasting, invaluable impact on the life of a child.”
The Live Art Showcase gave college students an opportunity to raise public awareness of childhood literacy as well as recognize the diverse talent of the local creative community. The showcase featured poets, musicians, a jewelry maker and visual and performing artists.
“I wanted to support the event because reading is rarely targeted,” said Monica McLemore, who attended the benefit. “It’s nice to see college students come together and promote awareness for children’s literacy.”
Rockwell was happy with the donations for Reach Out and Read.
“It’s nice to see kids helping kids,” she said.
Chaneé Patterson, a journalism major, graduated from VCU Mass Comm in May 2012. She wrote this story for the school’s Capital News Service program.