Allen Promises 'Books from Birth' Bill

Kids to Receive Free Books from Birth to Age Five

Photo: Andrew Lightman

Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen stood in front of the Southwest Public Library today to announce the introduction of his 'Books From Birth' Bill. The legislation would empower the DC Public Libraries (DCPL) to mail each child once a month a book from birth through age five. The program would be designed to connect young families with DCPL resources and educational information to facilitate adult and early childhood literacy.

Allen was joined by Dr. Robert Zarr, a pediatrician from Unity Healthcare, Dr. Laure Falusi, President of the DC Academy of Pediatrics, HyeSook Chung, Executive Director, DC Action For Children and a number of other parent advocates along with children and parents from the nearby Waterfront Academy.

“The first thing Cora (Allen's daughter) did this morning was ask to play with a book,” stated Allen. Getting books into kids' homes is an evidenced-based method of increasing literacy, he stated.

The program will not be means tested. It will cost $30 per child per year. An estimated 41,000 children will be served. The total cost will be in the neighborhood of $1.5 million, which will be drawn from a combination of District funds and private donations administered by DCPL. The books will be age-appropriate and selected by a volunteer community.

“As a great city, we must put books into youngsters' homes,” said Allen.

“We know that programs focusing on early literacy can be powerful tools to improve student achievement later in life. Putting books directly into young children’s hands is an important step toward ensuring they begin school prepared to learn. This legislation will help foster richer at-home literacy environments for all District children, and is an important way to help eliminate our persistent and widening achievement gap,” said HyeSook Chung, Executive Director of DC Action for Children.

Allen ended the event by reading to children in the library. He plans to introduce the legislation at the Council's Tuesday meeting.

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