Read Across Columbia

Heart of Missouri United Way believes every child can learn how to read.

To maintain grade-level reading, kids need 10 grade-level books in their home. We also know that children are most interested in reading when they can relate to the characters in books.

Unfortunately, the 2019 Diversity in Children’s Literature Report from the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, indicates that there are more books about animals (29%) than all books about children of color combined (26.9%: Black/African, 11.9%, First/Native Nations, 1%, Asian/Asian American, 8.7%, Latinx, 5.3%, and Pacific Islander .05%). Books about white characters represent 41.8% of titles in the study of books published. Black/African creatives wrote and/or illustrated only 46.4% of stories featuring Black/African characters.

This makes it difficult for children of color to become interest-ed in reading. Combined with other common household struggles like food insecurity and poverty, reading proficiency can be difficult to achieve. In Columbia Public Schools, English/Language Arts MAP scores demonstrate the subsequent disparity in outcomes: 13.4% of Black 3rd grade students test proficient or advanced, while 55.2% of white students test the same.

Heart of Missouri United Way removes this barrier to literacy by getting kids their very own books. Read Across Columbia puts inclusive book titles into the hands of all first and second grade students at our five elementary schools with the lowest reading proficiency scores and highest free-and-reduced lunch rates. These same schools are also the most diverse in our district. Each Fall and Spring, United Way volunteers pack bookbags with 4 books plus one coupon for a free book from Daniel Boone Regional Library, for approximately 650 kids. By reaching kids that most need support, we are advancing equity in education.