MKE rooted with books with various characters to inspire more children to read
MILWAUKEE — Ashley Valentine started her career as a schoolteacher, but says she couldn’t find enough books featuring various characters.
“When black and brown kids are reading books and they’re not seeing each other, it’s hard to imagine yourself in that situation or in that experience,” Valentine says. “You kind of start developing, unconsciously, thoughts of ‘this happens to these type of people and that’s not a possibility for me. “”
Valentine wanted her students to gain the sense of possibility and belonging that comes from seeing themselves in a story. So she decided to leave the class.
“Black and brown kids don’t typically fare as well in literacy, so I thought I could reach a different subset of students and reach parents in a different way.”
And this is how his Rooted MKE library was born. Valentine offers tutorial and exploration sessions to create a complete literary experience. But she spends a lot of time searching and filling her shelves with titles like Grown in Harlem and Not all boys are blue. She has books for all ages, especially for young readers.
“Typically, kids who love reading start that love of reading very early,” says Valentine. “Making sure you make those connections early on helps ensure they stick with it, and then their love of reading grows as their book selection grows as well.”
These skills are more than just a hobby, they are vital for everyday life. Being able to read at grade level is an important indicator of whether a child will graduate from high school.
“As we know, children who don’t read well growing up become adults who have difficulty reading and I think that hurts your confidence and your ability to navigate society and interact with people,” says Valentine.
But parents can help their children develop that confidence by practicing reading together. It could be signs and tags while you run errands or a one-on-one story time at home.
“Reading is an experience and if you can enjoy that experience with the people closest to you and by whom you feel safe and supported, it definitely makes it easier.”
Valentine isn’t alone in supporting early literacy skills in Milwaukee. Our “Give a Child a Book” campaign is an opportunity for you to help children in our region develop strong reading skills. You can donate until the end of September – proceeds will go to the Next Door Foundation. Every $5 raised buys a book.
Text 4BOOKS to 345-345 or visit our website.
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