As Words Alive is celebrating its 20th year of serving San Diego, we’re taking a look back to reflect on how we’ve grown as an organization and adapted to the needs of our community.
Words Alive was founded in 1999 by Leslye Lyons on the belief that if you value reading and understand its fundamental connection to all aspects of your life, then you will be better equipped to thrive as a lifelong learner and productive member of your community! Words Alive started out first and foremost by working with teens. Leslye and a team of volunteers had the idea to create a book club program for teenagers who were facing extraordinary circumstances such as homelessness, teen parenting, and impact by the justice system. This idea would eventually become our Adolescent Book Group (ABG), which still runs today.
Eventually, Words Alive moved to work with Pre K - 3rd graders by developing an integrated read-aloud program for preschoolers! Why did we decide to expand our programming to include early readers? Amanda Bonds, Program Director, explains:
“Taking a cue from the educators among the early members of our Board of Directors, we recognized that expanding our programs to serve Preschool through 3rd grade was an important way to support young minds during a critical window of reading development. After all, we wouldn’t need to close a gap in reading engagement and achievement, if we did our part to help ensure that one never opened.”
It is important for young children to be exposed to reading and to experience being read aloud to. According to the Child’s Bureau, “Reading to young children is proven to improve and help along the process of cognitive development… Reading daily to young children, starting in infancy, can help with language acquisition and literacy skills. This is because reading to your children in the earliest months stimulates the part of the brain that allows them to understand the meaning of language and helps build key language, literacy and social skills.”
Here at Words Alive, our Read Aloud program has trained volunteers to read aloud each week to thousands of children from underserved communities at early childhood education and Title 1 - eligible elementary school sites across San Diego!