By Ashlyn Gagnard

Ashlyn Gagnard, from Girl Scout Troop 33309, is a sixth grade student in Riverview who is currently working on her Girl Scout Silver Award project. She has written an article hoping to bring awareness on the importance of reading to every child, even in infancy.

Who doesn’t love a good book? Their stories can take us around the world and beyond fantasy. Even better, books strengthen our vocabulary, develop problem solving skills and provide endless education. Books are my passion and I believe all children should have access to them, which sadly is still beyond the reach of some in our community.

As a Girl Scout, I wanted to develop a project to educate the community on the importance of literacy for young children and help put books into the hands of kids who had no access to literature at home. According to the National Center for Education, children’s early vocabulary skills are linked to their economic background. By age 3, there exists a 30 million word gap between children from the wealthiest and poorest of families. By the time these children enter Kindergarten, 34 percent lack the basic language skills needed to learn how to read.

I partnered with Alpha House of Tampa and their mission to provide homeless pregnant women and mothers with young children safe housing and the tools they need to become self-sufficient and effective, responsible parents. For the last 12 years they have used the Parents As Teachers (PAT) program in their facility. PAT is a national best-practice, evidence-based child-development curriculum to increase parent knowledge of early child development, improve parenting practices, provide early detection of developmental delays and health issues, prevent child abuse and neglect, and increase school readiness and school success. In working with the women at Alpha House I realized how important it is for all families to read with their children. Even using a cereal box at breakfast becomes a great way for young children to identify letters or words. These early parenting skills will exponentially grow in their children’s development and potentially every generation it passes down.

Bedtime stories are more than a great way to go to sleep; they are a family tradition that provides so many benefits. So the next time your children ask you to tuck them into bed, why not bring along a great story and brighten their lives in so many ways?

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