Unite for Literacy has previously launched a free digital library, engaging directly with community partners to sponsor books and build awareness. In the next year, Unite for Literacy will demonstrate a replicable and scalable model of community picture book abundance, beginning in Colorado and expanding to communities throughout the nation. Unite for Literacy commits to enlisting more than 600 new book sponsors to expand awareness of the library, resulting in 50,000 unique visits to the library from Colorado. In addition, the commitment partners will add relevant content to the library, including 50 new books, 10 new languages of narration, and 10 new family activity videos.
Unite for Literacy has proven experience in employing innovative publishing and technology strategies to solve book scarcity issues. Team members contribute expertise in the fields of literacy, early childhood education, web-based consumer products, and business enterprise solutions. The company has developed a funding model that engages corporate partners to leverage their marketing reach and social responsibility strategies to create awareness, while also supporting community-based organizations to create content relevant for their families. Recognizing the importance of data-driven measures in helping communities successfully solve social issues, Unite for Literacy is building powerful analytics into their technology solution, which will map the growth of readership and sponsorship activities.
Community partners are critical to the success of this solution and each can play multiple and overlapping roles. Collaborations with corporate sponsors and civic sector groups will harness their marketing and outreach activities to expand awareness of the library to the families they serve. Museums, public radio, libraries, and public television stations will contribute new and culturally relevant books, language narrations and family activity videos.
The unique strength of the Unite for Literacy solution is that all individuals, small businesses, large corporations, libraries, schools, and civic groups can contribute to picture book abundance in the community. Through those contributions, every child will be able to find books that reflect his or her own family's culture, language, and daily life, and thus develop the habit of reading.
Action: Collaborate with corporate partners to increase awareness of the library. Document best practices for replication. Deliverables:
September 30: Obtain 50 new book sponsorships.
December 31: Obtain 100 new book sponsorships.
March 31: Obtain 200 new book sponsorships.
June 2015: Obtain 250 new book sponsorships. Document partners' best practices to share and replicate.
Action: Collaborate with community partners to expand relevant content by publishing 50 new books and 10 languages of narration, including 5 new indigenous languages. Document best practices for replication. Deliverables:
September 30: Publish 5 books about health with 10 language narrations.
December 31: Publish 15 books (at least 5 STEM topics) with 10 language narrations.
March 31: Publish 15 books with additional partners and themes with 10 language narrations.
June 2015: Publish 15 books with additional partners and themes with 10 language narrations. Complete 10 videos for broadcast on RMPBS.
Action: Track results of partner initiatives and document successful strategies to increase picture book abundance. Develop tools to make that data visible. Deliverables:
September 30: Complete development of the Book Abundance Map that reports geographic expansion of sponsorships and awareness activities. Every quarter: Update and publish the map.
December 31: Analyze current metrics and initiate tracking of new metrics in areas that need more refinement.
March 31: Report increases in unique library visits to community partners. Finalize definition of core metrics of success.
June 2015: Provide tools to allow partners to see their success metrics and learn from best practices in their communities.
Two factors conspire to undermine our efforts to grow a nation of readers - a scarcity of relevant books in homes and a lack of regular reading habits. Evan, M. D. R., et al. (2010) confirms that the number of books in the home is an excellent predictor of later school success, yet many homes report having far fewer than 100 books, which is the critical number that Unite for Literacy defines as book abundance. Literacy organizations employ significant resources to get books into the hands of emergent readers, often with limited success due to the expense of publishing and distributing printed books. Additionally, the books that are available have limited relevance to many families. According to the U. S. Census Bureau, as of July 2012, half of all American children under age 5 are from ethnic and racial minorities and one in five children speak a language other than English at home. Yet a study by the Cooperative Children's Book Centre at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found fewer than 7% of published children's books depict children of color. Except for Spanish, other languages are virtually unsupported in the available supply of children's books.
With few relevant books in the home, it is no wonder that many children fail to develop a habit of reading. The well-publicized 'word gap' at the beginning of kindergarten, between children from impoverished backgrounds and those from more educated homes, provides another indicator that families struggle to make reading a regular routine.
It would be difficult to achieve sustainable nationwide book abundance through traditional publishing and non-profit networks alone. However, Unite for Literacy's digital solution creates cause marketing and brand awareness opportunities for the corporate sector, capitalizes on the increasing proliferation of mobile devices, and incorporates innovative technology and publishing strategies. This solution offers an original and reliable means of comprehensively delivering a library of relevant books into the homes of all young children, giving them abundant opportunities to develop the habit of reading.