In Benicia magazine’s October issue, it was announced that a citywide reading campaign, BENICIA READS would be launched here in our city. This is a partnership between the Benicia Unified School District and The City of Benicia that will help support all students and children from birth to age five with their reading and literacy development. BUSD has focused on what they are calling a Wildly Important Goal: All students will read at grade level by the end of their third grade year, and beyond.
In hearing this, one might say, hasn’t this always been the goal? The answer is definitely yes, but now BUSD and the City of Benicia are striving to pursue this most important goal with even greater urgency and commitment of resources.
We know language development is tantamount to one’s success in life…
…including school and the world of work. The research is compelling regarding language development, particularly in the first five years of life, and the importance of reading and engaging in rich conversations with your child daily. A particularly impactful study has stated that when a parent, “… engages in extra talk – speaking 48 million words (versus 13 million words) to an infant in its first 36 months of life – many, many more of the synaptic pathways in the child’s brain are exercised and refined….this means that children who have been lavished with extra talk have an almost incalculable cognitive advantage compared to those who have not been.” (Christensen, C., 2011) Robust language development in these early years establishes the foundation from which students learn to read with fluency, comprehension, confidence and, hopefully, joy.
Things have changed, however.
Things have changed, however, within the last decade with the rampant use of technology and the ubiquitous cell phone. While these new advancements are exciting and offer some advantages, they can create distractions in the interactions between parents and their children. In fact, there is evidence that many Transitional Kindergarten and Kindergarten students join our school system with less developed language skills than they did prior to the wide availability of electronics. It seems that parents are not talking as much to their babies and small children. They are not listening, reading, singing or interacting with them as much either. Only through a concerted effort to talk, read and sing to their children will parents provide enough verbal stimulation for children to be good readers and lifelong learners. BENICIA READS provides that necessary link between parents and their young children. Although BENICIA READS is under the auspices of the BUSD, the City of Benicia, and the California Department of Education, approximately twenty-five members of the community came together in support of this literacy program including the Rotary Club, local businesses, First Five Solano, Kiwanis, the Benicia City Council, the Chamber of Commerce and private preschools. This effort is truly city-wide, and to paraphrase an African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a literate child.”
BENICIA READS is headed by team of committed individuals:
Leslie Beatson, Assistant Superintendent, Benicia Unified School District
Lorie Tinfow, City Manager, City of Benicia
Tina Kister Hardy, Benicia Reads Project Manager, Benicia Unified School District
This team has been brainstorming all the literacy events currently happening around Benicia and creating other events and opportunities that support literacy. Currently, they are planning an April launch aligned with the annual Week of the Young Child set for April 11-17, 2020, (https://www.naeyc.org/events/woyc). BENICIA READS’ kick-off event is called “Books & Blankets” and is scheduled for April 17, 2020, 4:30 – 7:00 p.m. in City Park. The event is free and some of the activities include storytelling and a book exchange, and light dinner fare will be provided. Other events and activities are planned throughout the year; more information is forthcoming on their webpage, which is currently under construction. For more information please contact Leslie Beatson at firstname.lastname@example.org.