OVERLAND PARK, Kan. — Seven-year-old Donovan doesn’t just read books, he writes them.
This year, the second grade student at Winnwood Elementary School in Kansas City, Missouri’s Northland wrote and illustrated a book about a boy named Max who works odd jobs to buy a pet dog.
“They bought some dog food and then went to the dog park,” Donovan revealed how the story ended for Max and his new husky puppy, named Speedy.
Donovan’s schoolmates begin reading in kindergarten at Winnwood. Their principal, Dr. Leah Copeland, believes the sooner a child reads, the better.
She’s discovered one way to encourage reading is by helping students build at-home libraries.
“They can read their books over and over, they can read with younger siblings,” Copeland said.
KSHB 41 and its corporate owner’s charitable arm, the Scripps Howard Foundation, created the “If you Give a Child a Book” campaign to raise money to buy books for children to take home.
In January 2020, the foundation donated books to Winnwood Elementary. Donovan and his classmates were able to choose books they liked.
“It can change the trajectory of a student’s reading opportunities to read at home as well as at school,” Copeland explained. “We can send books home with them, but for them to actually have books through a book drive they can keep for their own, perhaps even spread around to friends in the neighborhood, to share those, that can make an incredible impact for our students.”
Studies reinforce Copeland’s stance.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation found students who aren’t reading at grade level by the end of third grade are four times less likely to graduate high school. Unfortunately, the National Assessment of Educational Progress reports the majority of fourth graders in both Kansas and Missouri are not reading at a proficient level.
At that age, roughly 85 percent of a school’s curriculum in math, science, literature and other core subjects is taught by reading books, worksheets, computer software and other means.
Copeland said a focus on building home libraries is making a difference for her students.
“We’ve seen strong gains with our students by increasing the reading they’re doing at home as well as in our classrooms here at school,” she pointed out.
Luckily, Donovan loves to read. He said it’s important to read because when he’s an adult and has a job, he’ll need to read on his own in order to complete his duties. That's why he dutifully visits the library today.
“I’ve been reading a lot,” he said. “I’ve been getting these books from the library, free books, and I get like two or three every week that we have a library. So I’m reading those books.”
Visit the donation website to make a contribution to KSHB 41’s “If you Give a Child a Book” campaign.