Students at The Children’s Learning Center in Fort Myers waved and cheered as Fancy Nancy, Thing 1 and other Dr. Suess characters circled the entrance before delivering a crate full of new books to the early learning center.
The unique, socially distanced Children’s Literacy Parade was the result of a partnership between Humana, the Early Learning Coalition of Southwest Florida and Child Care of Southwest Florida. As a community service initiative, Humana collects books for pre-school aged children. Volunteers were unable to read to students this year, instead decorating their vehicles with plush storybook characters, balloons and inspirational messages to help spark children’s interest in reading.
“Humana places a high priority on community health, and what better way to improve our community health than through literacy,” said Dr. Lauri Kalanges, medical director for Humana’s Central/North Florida region. “We’re bringing books to pre-schoolers so they can learn to read and enjoy reading over a lifetime.”
Child Care of Southwest Florida emphasizes literacy at its five centers in Lee and Hendry counties, especially among 4-year-olds who are beginning to recognize words and sounds. Each student walked back to their classrooms after the Literacy Parade on Dec. 16 with a children’s book tucked under their arms.
“This is a crucial period of development in their lives, the final year of preparation before they enter kindergarten,” said Chris Hansen, CEO of Child Care of Southwest Florida. “That’s why it is so important to keep books continuously in their hands. We’re so thankful to Humana and the Early Learning Coalition for helping increase literacy levels among our students, as well as children across the region.”
The Early Learning Coalition of Southwest Florida’s mission is to enhance the quality of children’s lives by providing families, early childhood educators, caregivers and community partners with opportunities to positively impact the future. The coalition offers guidance and support to child care providers in the region while emphasizing the importance of all children having access to high-quality learning programs.
One of the Early Learning Coalition’s most successful ventures is its Literacy Buddy Program, which connects child care providers and students with business partners and volunteers.
“The Literacy Buddy Program introduces children to the concept of reading and writing at an early age. It’s refreshing to see children captivated by books when they are normally surrounded by so many electronic options,” said Tallica Tidwell, the coalition’s Early Literacy Advisor. “The book they receive is theirs to keep, and is often the first book they truly own. The goal is to get children reading at grade level by third grade. Studies show if this milestone is reached, a child is more likely to graduate from high school. High school graduation is an important step to be able to enter the workforce, the military or go on to college.”
For information about literacy partnerships with Child Care of Southwest Florida, please call 239-278-1002 or visit CCSWFL.org.