During my freshman year of college, I became involved with an AmeriCorps program called Jumpstart. In Jumpstart, I teamed with other college students twice a week to go to a preschool in Dorchester, Massachusetts, where we engaged children in fun, educational activities. All of the songs, puzzles, art and games we brought to the classroom may have seemed only that, we were also trying to address a serious problem that has been recognized across the nation: gaps in early childhood literacy.

For various reasons, some children are unable to read proficiently by the time they reach the fourth grade. Disparities between them and their peers—in vocabulary and language processing, for instance—may then put them at a greater disadvantage at a time when children are transitioning from learning to read to reading to learn.

Luckily, many other initiatives besides Jumpstart have been created to address these problems. Some states, such as Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa and Ohio, have been especially recognized for their efforts to make sure their students succeed.

Take, for instance, Arizona. The state’s literacy programs highlight how involved local communities are with ensuring the best future for their children. Although the state’s “Read On Arizona” collaboration has been the most publicly acclaimed, that organization’s smaller “Read On Communities” have also received accolades for their actions. Phoenix, for instance, was recently given a Pacesetter Award from the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading for its contributions to early childhood literacy—perhaps the best example of which has been their new BookStorm program.

The BookStorm program is a partnership between Better World Books and the Friends of the Phoenix Public Library that donates books to local schools and brings the resources of a public library to their classrooms. Some 300,000 books were made available for the cause!

In addition to donating books to schools, BookStorm also has literacy outreach specialists visit schools and teach students about libraries. “Thanks to this partnership with Better World Books, we’re able to significantly increase the program’s impact. Including an outreach visit from staff at Phoenix Public Library sets kids up with library cards which is essential to developing lifelong learning skills,” stated Jason Peterson, the executive director of the Friends of the Phoenix Public Library.

The BookStorm program is an excellent illustration of how a cooperative ethic in a community can make a huge difference. And though the program is between active cycles at the moment, it will continue to provide to communities in the near future.

Did You Know?

If you’re ever in the mood for children’s literature with a classic twist, then you probably can’t get any more classic(al) than Winnie Ille Pu, the Latin translation of Winnie the Poo. Winnie Ille Pu was the first Latin book to have been on the New York Times bestseller list—a position that it occupied for 20 weeks!