Shauna von Hanstein, literacy and numeracy project chair, Ferst books coordinator, recently spoke to the Rotary Club of Greene and Putnam Counties.

The Ferst Foundation for Childhood Literacy was established by Robin Ferst Howser in 1999 and is a 501 © 3 organization which support childhood literacy efforts.

Von Hanstein provided some insight to the Ferst Program and the impact on literacy: “In Georgia, Ferst Foundation for Childhood Literacy serves as the vehicle to bring the program to children under the age of 5. In our state 1 in 5 children live in poverty and approximately 61 percent of low-income families do not have a single piece of reading material suitable for a child. A third of our children come to school unprepared to learn and we have the nation’s third highest rate of high school dropouts.”

She further stated: “Children who are introduced to books early and who are read to on a regular basis do better in school. Parents are four times more likely to read aloud to their children when given free books and encouragement. The books from Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library are mailed on a monthly basis free of charge to each registered child. Parents, educators and child development specialists in association with the Dollywood Foundation carefully select the books.”

To date the Ferst Foundation has sent more than 1 million books to more than 64,000 children in 60 participating Georgia counties. On a local level, the earliest community to initiate the program has tracked the results of their kindergarten readiness test results to demonstrate the difference that Ferst Foundation can make. Morgan County reports “since implementation, we have seen our kindergarten readiness test scores go from 46 percent to 90 percent ready.”

The goal of the Ferst Foundation is to be state-wide by the year 2010. Rotary clubs have provided invaluable help and the Imagination Library is among the resources recommended in Rotary’s “Every School a Star” literacy kit, a “how-to” guide for Rotary Clubs and International Reading Association councils to carry out literacy projects in local communities. Building upon the partnership already formed between Rotary International and the Imagination Library, all Georgia Rotary clubs are declaring Ferst Foundation as their literacy program of choice and have accepted the challenge to help insure all Georgia Counties are include in Ferst by 2010.

Laura Dent, president of the Rotary Club of Greene and Putnam Counties, advised: “Our Rotary Club has challenged each of the members to sponsor at least one child for one year of books. We are pleased to partner with the Ferst Foundation in raising expectations of ‘raising’ a generation of readers and watch the impact on economic and social development.”



Photo Caption: (left to right) Shauna von Hanstein, Laura Dent



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