We don’t always think about the holidays as a time to encourage education, but it’s the perfect time to help families and children develop a love for learning and books.

United Way of Utah County EveryDay Learners along with Orem City, NPS, Utah Valley Storage & RV, and several religious congregations in Orem has been spending the last several months developing and rolling out the Read Early, Read Often initiative to provide families with resources and information on learning and provide the community with an opportunity to support these families.

The first goal of the Read Early, Read Often initiative is to give parents, grandparents, and those who interact with children activities that support brain development, increase attachment and bonding, and provide experiences that build exploration in young children. Research has shown that these are simple yet significant skills that infants and young children need to acquire to learn to read and be ready for school.

A recent survey conducted by Envision Utah indicated that a high percentage of parents realize the importance of brain development for infants and young children, however, these same parents did not know ways to help their child’s mind develop during daily routines. Read Early, Read Often provides them with ideas of fun activities such as talking and singing with children, encouraging pretend play and creating a routine for reading books.

Another part of the Read Early, Read Often campaign is to help our community understand the importance of building a home library. Infants can enjoy a book, sometimes chewing on it before looking at the pictures! One of the best ways for children to love to read is to have positive experiences reading with their parents and other loved ones.

Jim Trelease, author and educator, promotes reading aloud to infants, children and teenagers as a way to create a love for reading along with creating an emotional bond with family members. He states, “We read to children for all the same reasons we talk with children: to reassure, to entertain, to bond, to inform or explain, to arouse curiosity, to inspire.”

In addition, when we read with children they associate reading with happiness, are able to have access to background information and build new vocabulary. And, of course, a parent who provides a model for reading is invaluable.

Studies by the University of Reno, Nevada have shown that regardless of a parent’s level of education, children who grow up with a home library have improved skills in adult literacy, numeracy and problem-solving. When a home has at least 20 books, a child’s levels of learning and confidence in learning are all increased.

Read Early, Read Often would like to provide books for children and provide an opportunity for community members to help. This past summer several religious organizations began collecting like-new books along with monetary donations to buy new books. In addition, NPS has donated and volunteers have helped sort and clean thousands of gently used books, which will be donated to title one schools, United Way of Utah County Ready to Learn workshops, and other nonprofits to help families build their own home libraries. Orem City Police have been also busy this school year visiting and reading books to third and fourth graders in the Alpine School District and will receive books to hand out to students.

To continue to support these organizations and families in Utah County, Read Early, Read Often will be holding a countywide book drive beginning Dec. 9 throughout the end of December. New or like-new books can be dropped off at the Orem City offices or the Orem City Library. Monetary donations can be made at http://unitedwayuc.org/readearly to help buy books.

We appreciate the community and the power that we have when we come together to support Utah County children. Something as simple as a book donation can have a powerful impact on a child’s life.

For more information and resources, visit http://everydaylearners.org.

For more information and resources, visit www.everydaylearners.org