“The power of reading is immeasurable. It opens a door of endless possibilities for kids and opportunities for kids,” said Diane Fernandes, a coordinator for one of Raising A Reader MA’s (RAR-MA) partners: the Ulysses G. Shelton Head Start Program in Brockton, MA.

The Ulysses G. Shelton Head Start Program, a partner of RAR-MA since 2011, serves children between the ages of two and a half to five years old from lower-income communities in the Brockton, Holbrook, and Avon areas. The program provides an opportunity for students to have access to an early childhood education where they have access to resources that they may not have otherwise.

Today, RAR-MA provides families from Shelton Head Start with access to workshops (both in-person and soon to be virtual), seminars, reading activities, dialogistic reading practices, handouts, and high-quality books in a variety of languages. Diane Fernandes has been working closely with RAR-MA Program Manager Maria Mombeleur to provide these resources to students and caregivers.

Diane notes that one of the best parts of working with RAR-MA is how easy the partnership is. “There is always a great deal of communication between us at Shelton and Maria. RAR-MA is great at not only supplying all these wonderful materials but also constantly collaborating with us and being flexible,” Diane said.

One of the most impactful aspects of RAR-MA’s partnership with Shelton Head Start is how much it has been able to get both kids and families excited about reading. Diane remembers how before the RAR-MA partnership, many caregivers were hesitant to participate in reading with their child. But after a few RAR-MA workshops, caregivers slowly became much more willing to branch out. Diane recalls a particular story of a parent whose child received a book in a different language: “We generally tell caregivers that they do not have to read the book to their child if it’s in a different language but can still share it and look over the pictures. However, I remember one parent coming in and telling me ‘I speak multiple languages, and even though I don’t speak this one I tried reading it with my child just to expose ourselves to another language.’ I thought this was a great demonstration of how RAR-MA has opened a lot of caregiver’s minds up for us.”

It seems that it’s not just the students that are excited about the Red Book Bag at the Shelton Head Start program, but the families and implementers as well. Beyond providing a wide range of resources, RAR-MA’s partnership has encouraged families to engage with books and reading practices and to branch out in order to expose students to languages they may be unfamiliar with, laying the foundation to a promising start in their reading careers.