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My Home Library Project

WHHA staff standing next to bookshelf of materials used in Home Library project

In 2014, the Winter Haven Housing Authority created the "My Home Library" Family Literacy Project, as a way to address declining reading outcomes of its after-school youth, and to promote healthier reading habits between parent and child.

Bookshelves, fully stocked with reading materials for the entire household, were donated by local businesses to deserving families who through essay competitions explained why having a home library was important to their family.

Background: The WHHA operates an after-school tutorial program, and annually in assessing student progress, volunteer tutors noticed a common concern of reading deficiencies among some youth tutored. Meanwhile, through the FSS Program, coordinators noticed that during monthly Book club meetings, that some parents faced literacy challenges. FSS Participants hosts a book club, whereby they select reading materials. Some of these parents also have children participating in the after-school tutoring program.

Through these observances, the "My Home Library" Family Literacy Project was born. Local businesses and service providers have joined the WHHA, to donate needed bookshelves and reading materials to families who qualify, as a result of their winning essay entries. Essays are juried, for now, twice a year for bookshelf distribution.

Agency Role:  As the sole creator of this project, the WHHA's development of the literacy project and its organization required minimal funding to implement. Making the pit to local social service providers and businesses for books and furniture was met with success, as the WHHA has worked hard to cultivate good collaborations with community providers.

Results/Program Success:  The primary object of this project (was/is) to address impacts of reduced family interaction in the home, when television and other forms of media (video games and tapes) are prevalent. National studies by the American Academy of Pediatrics and American Medical Association, have revealed that excessive time spent with various media overtime will displace more active and meaningful pursuits, such as reading and family fun time. Public Housing families sampled disclosed they rarely enjoyed activity with their children without some form of media being used. This admittance seemed to validate studies that suggest that children spend an average 6 hours per day in front of the TV, which has caused some youth over time to demonstrate poorer school performance, aggressiveness and even obesity.

For adults in the household, the trend was even more concerning, as researchers found that for every 2 hours a parent spent watching TV during their day, their risk of developing type 2 diabetes increased by 20% and their risk of heart disease increased by 15%. From reviewing studies, listening to families and the evaluation of youth in our after-school tutoring program, the WHHA saw a need for the literacy initiative. Reaction from families has yielded several impactful essay competitions among parents seeking to strengthen the family bond and boost their children's school performance.

Total Costs/Financing:  Development of this program cost the WHHA as little as $100, which was used for printing literature presented to sponsors and for miscellaneous shelf décor. This is what makes the "My Home Library" such an effective and easy initiative to implement. It's also a non-intrusive way to jumpstart positive interaction among parent and child. The costs of bookshelves and reading materials were all absorbed by the donors.