San Diego

Family Literacy and the Power of Play

Play is important for children and adults everywhere. Not only is play a good stress reliever, but playing with your child is a good way to bond and assess your child’s development milestones. For the children themselves, “play contributes to children’s fine and gross motor development and body awareness as they actively use their bodies.”

During our Family Literacy session each week we talk about two major themes: The power of play, and how to make reading more playful. We emphasize the importance of children using their entire body and senses to learn.

A delicious example of this is the book Growing Vegetable Soup. During this session we played a smelling game, asking families to guess the fruit or vegetable in an unmarked container by using only their sense of smell. After the game the children stamped vegetables on paper plates to remind them that literacy is all around us, including in the kitchen. One little boy said, “I want to make sure we put this somewhere in my room so I can see it every day.” The families shared different items they can use at home to play the smelling game (i.e cinnamon, basil, mint, cloves, anise star etc…)  

Through this example we are connecting the power of reading with the world that surrounds us. Having children use their outside sensory abilities to connect to the book will allow for them to have a deep and more meaningful connection to reading and to the world around them.

The First week of April marked the start of our second session of Family Literacy Programming for the 2015/2016 season. For seven weeks we will be working with over a 100 families. Each week we have fun activities and games to engage families, making reading a part of their daily routine!

Here are some of the things families shared they are doing at home after they completed a 7 week session with us:

“When we read ABC Animal Action at home my kids wanted to read the entire book and act out the letters and the way the animals moved.”

“When we read Is Your Mama a Llama, my daughter made sure to point out all the rhyming words.”

“We had the Spanish copy of Is Your Mamma a Llama so his dad can read to him, and we love it because it rhymes in Spanish too.”

Our Family Literacy Program is a full adventure for both the parents and children.  If you are interested in visiting one of our Family Literacy sessions we would be happy to make the arrangements. We have ongoing sessions from now until May 20th. Please contact Amanda Bonds at, to schedule a time and join us at a site, as we continue to MAKE READING MATTER!  

Summer Reading Book Drive

It is Reading Awareness Month in San Diego and to help share the importance of reading, Words Alive is participating in a summer reading book drive to benefit the libraries of San Diego. 

“More than half of the achievement gap between lower- and higher – income youth can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities. As a result, low-income youth are less likely to graduate from high school or enter college."

Low-income students lose more than two months in reading achievement over the summer months. Books collected will be distributed to students by the San Diego Public Library to ensure they are able to keep up with their reading over the summer.

To announce this new endeavor, on April 19th Words Alive brought a Read Aloud Program classroom from Washington Elementary to the City Council Meeting. Our students were so excited to learn about what goes on at these meetings and shared their love of reading with the City Council. Madeline from the third grade class addressed the Council and shared, “reading is important because it lets you go places.”

In partnership with Council member Lorie Zapf, City of San Diego, United Way of San Diego County, and the San Diego County Public Library The Summer Reading Book Drive will run through May 31. We will have a collection bin here at Words Alive and keep a look out for bins at your neighborhood public library and select City Administration buildings in San Diego.

As part of our commitment to make reading matter to everyone, we want to encourage all of the work being done in San Diego that supports our mission, “to open opportunities for life success by inspiring a commitment to reading!”

Click HERE to view a list of all of the San Diego County Libraries and locations.

Celebrating Volunteerism: Words Alive and the San Diego Community

As Words Alive joins the nation in celebrating Volunteer Appreciation during the month of April, we thank the volunteer core that tirelessly devotes time and talent year-round to make our mission, and the work of many other organizations, possible.

San Diego is a philanthropically active community, and Words Alive is one part of the call to action.  The University of San Diego’s Caster Family Center for Nonprofit and Philanthropic Research, a partner in Words Alive program evaluations, published their State of Nonprofits in San Diego report in 2014 that cited a total of 9,364 501(c)3 nonprofits in San Diego.  The nonprofits reported represent a variety of foci including but limited to education, health, environment and animals.  Of the thousands of nonprofits reported, only 23% have paid employees – meaning the work of over 7,000 organizations is facilitated entirely by volunteer support. Of the few thousand nonprofits with paid staff, 59% have fewer than 10 employees (Words Alive included). 

The impact of San Diego’s volunteer community becomes clear – an enablement of thousands of charitable organizations to make their missions reality.  We can attest to that: our core of 550 volunteers empowers us with the ability to reach 5,000 children, teens and families each month with our programs.

Volunteers gave $269,000 worth in time in 2015!

Turns out, a culture of giving is not limited to San Diego.  In 2014, the State of California had the highest number of reported volunteer hours in the nation.  As if the time spent and the talent shared isn’t enough of a testament to the impact of volunteerism, the dollar value of each hour given is incredible.  In the last year alone, Words Alive volunteers have contributed over 10,000 hours toward our mission.  According to the Corporation for National & Community Service, each volunteer hour is attributed a monetary value of $26.87 (as of 2014). Since April of 2015, Words Alive volunteers have given nearly $269,000 worth in time!

On behalf of every nonprofit in San Diego, thank you for your devoted and often thankless work to ensure that we remain an aware, progressive and giving community.  You provide a model for the world of how your shared time and talent can bring such valued impact. 


Schumann, M.J., Jones, J.A., Hunt, K., Mitchell, C., Krasynska, S., and Deitrick, L. (2014).  Annual Report:

State of Nonprofits in San Diego.  San Diego, CA: Caster Family Center for Nonprofit and Philanthropic Research, University of San Diego