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King County Housing Authority
600 Andover Park W
Tukwila, WA 98188

A book in every home: First Book — Seattle donates to kids in Kent public housing

June 19, 2012 — Kent

Did you have a favorite book as a child?  Perhaps Dr. Seuss’ “One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish”? Or Margaret Wise Brown’s “Goodnight Moon”?  Or Richard Scarry’s “Busy, Busy World”? One that you read over and over until the binding disintegrated?

Unfortunately, many children these days don’t have a favorite book.  In fact, if they are poor, they likely don’t have any books at all. According to Reading Literacy in the United States, 61 percent of low-income families have no books at all in their homes for their children.  Families living in poverty must use their financial resources to pay for food and shelter, not books.

For children living in Birch Creek, Valli Kee Homes and Cascade Apartments, however, this is about to change. Thanks to a donation of 1,350 books from the First Book Book Bank and a grant from First Book – Seattle, more than 400 children from birth to age 8 will get books to call their own. First Book is a nonprofit that gives schools and organizations grants to purchase brand new books for children in need. The initiative is part of the King County Housing Authority’s broader effort to connect low-income housing, services and education for children living in three public housing communities on Kent’s East Hill.

“One of the biggest obstacles to literacy for low-income children is the scarcity of reading material in their homes,” said King County Housing Authority Executive Director Stephen Norman. “Brand new books from First Book – Seattle, coupled with literacy programs provided by our long-time partner Kent Youth and Family Services, will help keep children on track to be able to read by the end of third grade.”

Children in Birch Creek, Valli Kee Homes and Cascade Apartments come from families at the lowest level of poverty.  Most of them live in homes where English is not the primary language spoken and the average annual household income is $18,500. Few students living in these communities have formal early learning experiences and only about one-third of all East Hill public housing students are meeting standards across all content areas and grade levels.  A 2010 KIDS COUNT report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation argues that being able to read proficiently by the end of third grade is critical to ensuring a child’s ability to succeed in school and in life. Getting children on track to read by the end of the third grade is a key goal of KCHA’s Kent East Hill education initiative, Read to Succeed.

“Reading proficiently by the end of third grade can be a make-or-break benchmark in a child’s educational development,” said Jennifer Preisman, Recipient Group Liaison, First Book – Seattle. “That’s why we are so committed to working with community organizations like Kent Youth and Family Services and the King County Housing Authority to ensure access to new, high-quality books for low-income children.”

The books will be distributed to children through two different avenues.  For preschool  children up to age 3, books will be given as part of a Kent Youth and Family Services summer learning program. For students in first through third grades, the books will also be used as tools in summer literacy circles conducted by Kent Youth and Family Services at the Birch Creek Youth Center. Afterwards, children will get to take the books home.

Students participating in the Read to Succeed Afterschool Kindergarten Academy will each get a book a month for six months, starting in July. In this pilot program, Millennium Elementary School kindergartners living at Birch Creek participate in an after-school class that supports literacy and enrichment activities.

“Providing books to young readers is one predictor of children’s educational attainment,” said Carla Janes, principal of Millennium Elementary School.  “Having access to books, both at home and in scholastic settings has long-term positive outcomes for the academic achievement. We are very appreciative of the support being provided to our school community by First Book, Kent Youth and Family Services and the King County Housing Authority.”

“Learning to read is critical to a child’s success, both in school and in life,” said Mike Heinisch, executive director of Kent Youth and Family Services. “These kids want to do well in school and to create a better life for themselves.  Their families want to help, but can’t afford to buy books.  By giving books to these children now, we’re sparking their interest in reading.  In tandem with summer literacy and after-school programs, we’re working to close the reading achievement gap while also instilling a love of learning in kids who might otherwise wind up struggling to graduate from high school”

Birch Creek is a 262-unit family housing complex located at 27360 129th Pl SE. Valli Kee Homes is a 114-unit family housing complex located at 23401 .104th Ave. SE. Cascade Apartments is a 108-unit family housing complex located at 20500 106th Ave. SE.

KCHA administers a range of quality affordable rental and homeownership programs in the Puget Sound region.  The Authority houses more than 14,000 children on a daily basis.


Members of the public interested in donating quality children’s books to KCHA’s Read to Succeed education initiative should call Rickie Robinson at (206) 574-1352.

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