But a new chapter has begun, as parents, teachers and volunteers across Maui County are making the greatest investment in our children’s success—literacy—through a program called Read Aloud America.
An organization with a mission to promote literature and encourage a lifelong love of reading for both children and adults, Read Aloud America was founded in Hawai‘i in 1995 by Jed Gaines. It’s signature program, called the Read Aloud Program (RAP), brings parents and children together throughout the school year for “RAP Sessions,” in which parents, grandparents, teachers, and caregivers gather at the school to listen to volunteer presenters read stories, share reading tips, and provide chapter books. The program is currently underway at Wailuku, Kahului and Pā‘ia Elementary Schools, with support from the state Department of Human Services and contributions from local Rotary clubs, local businesses and individual supporters.
If you think this sounds mundane, well, don’t judge a book by its cover. At these events, children and their families are treated to pizza, refreshments and prizes (books, of course). This is solid proof that reading can be a lot of fun.
According to Maui Site Coordinator Larry Laird, “It is an amazing program that brings together the students, parents, school staff and community members for a relaxed evening of reading… RAP makes reading fun!”
Better yet, Read Aloud America Program Director Natalie Rollo Hayek said RAP has been breaking records this year. “Not only is RAP at a record ten schools on three islands this semester, but in only the first sessions at each school, we served over 5,000 adults and children,” she said. “Plus, we’ve had some of our largest individual sessions ever; several schools throughout the islands are seeing attendance consistently above 600 people per session, with some sessions nearing 1,000 adults and children.”
Most importantly, Hayek said, “We are thrilled to see so many families—from infants to grandparents—coming together to experience the joy and pleasure of reading and being read to. When families comment that they are turning off the television and spending time reading together instead, we know the program is making a difference.”
Tuskegee University founder and educator Booker T. Washington once said, “If you can’t read, it’s going to be hard to realize dreams.” He was right.