Florence early reading program gets big donation

on Sunday, 09 February 2014. Posted in News

Ellen Meder, Morning News
Posted: Thursday, February 6, 2014 

More than 2,000 books purchased by Barnes and Noble customers given to Start Smart

FLORENCE, S.C. — Florence's Barnes & Noble book store donated more than 2,000 books purchased by its customers to the Start Smart initiative Thursday, the result of the store's annual holiday drive.  Community relations manager Michele Rogers said the store makes a point every year to encourage customers to donate books to a local nonprofit that promotes literacy, and this year the newly formed Start Smart struck her as the way to go.  "I heard about them through the radio advertisements they had, so I contacted Debbie (Hyler) and she explained the program to me and we knew it was a perfect fit," Rogers said.

Smart Start is an effort launched last year by The School Foundation, in conjunction with Florence School District 1, with the aim of getting all children in the area ready to learn by the time they start kindergarten.  Hyler, the director of The School Foundation, said the program and its website are all about letting parents know what is developmentally good for infants and toddlers, and giving them resources and tips on how to play with and read to children to help them learn early.  The 2,117 books purchased for the drive by Barnes & Noble customers will be sorted and catalogued by district staff to be distributed to parents of young children in the community.

Start Smart has just kicked off one of its main programs, Start 2 Read, which will access these parents through their employers who have agreed to participate and set up learning sessions with district reading coaches. Hyler said that not only will parents of children who are 1, 2 and 3 years old get copies of the eight books on the Start 2 Read list for the year — the classic "Goodnight Moon" is first up — but the reading coaches will explain and parents see developmentally appropriate teaching opportunities on every page, even the pages with few words.  "Often in those picture books, there's not a lot of words on the page but there are so many opportunities to talk about maybe body parts on a face or the stripes or patterns. I mean there are just so many words that you can use, but often people might not know better ways to read with young children," Hyler said.  She said Start Smart wants to make it clear that a lot of important development and learning happens in the first three years, and that all parents should seek information on how to foster play that helps with brain development.

So far the program will be piloted with employees of Assurant, city of Florence, BlueCross BlueShield, and Johnson Controls. Hyler said Start Smart will work with the business community to set up more parent sessions and to gain donations for books to distribute.

For more information or to take a developmental quiz to gauge your child's readiness, visit www.startsmartflo.org.