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Politics and Government

Central NY literacy program to expand

Ellen Abbott

A program that provides a book a month to impoverished pre-schoolers in the city of Syracuse could be expanding. This comes after research that shows that the thousands of books that have been sent to 6,000 youngsters in the city have made a difference.

The Dolly Parton Imagination Library program run by the Literacy Coalition of Onondaga County has been sending books to children for five years now. And LeMoyne researcher Frank Ridzi says they have tested children who have been part of the program in that time and found success.  

"Parents are reading more frequently to their children with more exposure to the program. And then we found similar results with refugee families. And now we’re finding that children who were exposed to the program are more ready for kindergarten," said Ridzi.

Ridzi says 61 percent of the kids who were sent the books tested ready for Kindergarten, compared to 47 percent of children who weren’t receiving the books. The success has prompted Onondaga County to put more money in its next proposed budget to allow the program to expand to pre-school kids all across Onondaga County, according to Ann Rooney, deputy executive for human services in Onondaga County.  

"It really is a minimal investment. You know $320,000 dollars for the county zero to five, can turn a child’s life from being not ready, to ready for kindergarten.”

Rooney says this program can ultimately save taxpayers money as well, noting that 75 percent of social service recipients in Onondaga County don’t have a high school diploma; and kindergarten readiness is a good indicator of future success in school.