Guest column: WHY GIVE DISADVANTAGED CHILDREN A DR. SEUSS BOOK?

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By Dr. Mary Polizzotto and Deborah Shaver

Naples

The First Book-Collier County program, now in its eighth year of encouraging literacy among our disadvantaged young children, will once again celebrate the March 2 birthday of Theodore Geisel, known to millions worldwide as Dr. Seuss, with a “Stay at Home and Read” fundraiser in conjunction with the national literacy movement, Read Across America.

We’ll be distributing 6,800 books of four popular Dr. Seuss titles, to children in pre-K Head Start classes as well as kindergarten, first and second grade students in Title 1 schools throughout Collier during the scheduled FBCC distribution period.

Dr. Seuss makes us think of everything rhyming. The children love the books and can predict a coming word based on the patterns. Geisel, or Dr. Seuss, explained, “Children want the same things we want. To laugh, to be challenged, to be entertained and delighted.”

But his books are more than entertainment and teachers in our young grades have been building lesson plans around his stories each March for the five years we’ve provided the Dr. Seuss books. They can teach important math concepts, speech and oral language, reading, writing, healthy foods and much more.

Each child at a grade level receives the same book in class and the teachers build a lesson around the book. The children then can take their books home, to keep and cherish as they build their own personal library. Each month First Book distributes 6,800 books during the school term so next month, the children know there will be another new book as part of their lesson and for them to keep.

Pre-K students will get “Cat in the Hat’’ in March. Their teachers might be working on their fine motor skills if they have a hat-making exercise. Kindergartners will receive “Fox in Sox’’ and might have lesson where they make matching socks out of various materials and fun art projects that help develop important skills. The children can focus on the properties of matter as they consider the size, shape, color and texture of their socks and of those worn by their classmates.

“Green Eggs and Ham’’ will be read by first graders; they can learn about the food pyramid, healthy eating, while having a variety of literacy exercises such as retelling the story from the point of view of Sam-I-Am.

Second graders will read “Oh, Can You Say’’ with all its wonderful tongue twisters that help the student focus on phonics, parts of speech, oral language, alliteration, reading, writing and more.

First Book-Collier County is a unique literacy program that does much more than give books to children. Books that are chosen for distribution are closely tied to their classroom learning. We also provide books in the summer to children at Boys & Girls Club and the Bright Beginnings students at Grace Place to help them beat “summer slide” and maintain their reading skills developed during the school term.

First Book is also unique as a nonprofit, part of the national First Book organization. We have tremendous buying power through First Book Marketplace, obtaining high-quality, first run books at deep discounts. This has enabled us to give 400,000 books to needy children in our eight years of operation here.

We don’t do it alone. We currently have 20 partners in this fight for child literacy. They are: Backpacks for the Homeless, Boys & Girls Club of Collier County, Christ Child Society of Naples, Collier County Public Schools, Community Foundation of Collier County, Dependency Court (Collier County Circuit Judge Elizabeth V. Krier), Early Literacy and Learning Model (ELLM)m Friends of Foster Children, Fun Time Early Childhood Academy, Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples, Grace Place for Children and Families, Guadalupe Center for Immokalee, Gulfcoast Transportation Systems, Habitat for Humanity of Collier County, Immokalee Child Care Center, The Immokalee Foundation, Immokalee Housing & Family Services, NCH Healthcare System, RCMA (Redlands Christian Migrant Association), Ronald McDonald Care Mobile®, The Shelter for Abused Women & Children and YMCA of the Palms.

We’re able to accomplish so much thanks to these partners and to the many Collier Citizens who have supported our work over the years. Our fund is held and managed at the Community Foundation of Collier County. For more information or to make a donation, visit www.FirstBookCollierCounty.org.

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