Our United Voice

A Love of Language. A Love of Books.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Judy Schroeder
Senior Manager,
Neighborhood Engagement
When I was little, I can remember only one set of books in the house. My dad read the paper. But my mom would open up My Book House, the BIG BOOK of nursery rhymes, and the next volume with fairy tales from around the world. Now, that was a long time ago…once upon a time…but I don’t remember any of my neighbor friends having lots of children’s books, either.

Maybe that’s why I can relate so well to Metro United Way's Ages & Stages Questionnaires (ASQ) and the families enrolled, as well as our neighborhood parent advocates. The day I got that Golden Book, What Do Daddies Do All Day?, it was absolutely precious to me. (My daddy was just starting out as a mailman.)

So, how did I find this love for language that I have? For expressing myself? For being curious about others? For reading? My mother talked to me, that’s how. She actually asked questions, my whole life. Even as an infant, I’m sure, because I watched her do that with each of my brothers and sisters.

In too many homes, it still isn’t possible to spend dollars on a children’s book when that money must buy the diapers. But with programs like Metro United Way’s ASQ, that tracks a child's development from birth to age 5, parents are reassured that talking with a baby isn’t silly, it’s essential.

“Reading” pictures in a book at age two is a great “point and talk” conversation starter. Because by eighteen months, most children speak a dozen or more words clearly and may make two-word sentences. By age three, preschoolers know 300 words, which multiplies to 1,500 words at age five, and then sky-rockets by age 6 to thousands, perhaps 13,000 words!

Except that, research says, achievement gaps result for children in poverty who tend to hear MILLIONS fewer words and conversations than more affluent children during these critical early years, when babies’ brains are growing to 80% of their adult size.

With ASQ, every family gets books every time they return a questionnaire. If you’re lucky enough to live near one of our neighborhood parent networks, your parent advocate will also organize enrichment activities, like visits to the Kentucky Science Center, or library trips for great children’s reading programs. (We love the library’s suggested reading lists, too.) Other education partners, like those with the Bingham Fellows’ #Power40210 Kindergarten Readiness project, listened to those advocates say the neighborhood could help put books in the hands of our families, and the California neighborhood’s Little Free Libraries were born!

A love of language is as easy to come by as the love we show a child. Just talk with a child, and share a favorite book. I bet it makes you smile! Better yet, sign-up for Metro United Way's Ages & Stages Questionnaires!

Judy Schroeder has been with Metro United Way since 2006 and is currently Senior Manager, Neighborhood Engagement. Judy is a mediator, neighborhood mom, and human rights activist who has volunteered for 30 years with organizations in her own neighborhood of Portland in West Louisville, and has worked professionally with many other community-based organizations on program design and training: As Executive Director of the Peace Education Program (1982-1996) she created the Peer Mediation and Creative Conflict Resolution programs that now serve more than half of the Jefferson County Public School system. Statewide, Judy consulted in schools across Kentucky for the Kentucky Department of Education (1996-1999) on effective student engagement, peer mediation, and character education. As the original Training Director with Louisville’s Center for Nonprofit Excellence, Judy defined a training agenda for the skill sets the sector most requires, in a format that has persisted at CNPE since 2000. Regionally and nationally, for twenty years Judy led  training  teams for the National Coalition-Building Institute, Washington, D.C., on community-building and inter-group conflict resolution. 

1 comment

  1. A great article and program, I can think of no better way to ensure a child's academic success, than by reading to them and having books in the home


We would appreciate hearing YOUR voice:

Comments are lightly moderated for spam, inflammatory language, and off-topic or otherwise inappropriate posts.