When the Ferst Foundation was originally started by founder Robin Ferst, she knew the impact reading could have on a young child. Robin was diagnosed with hearing loss when she was six years old, and reading as a child was able to broaden horizons for her and give her an outlet to experience a world where opportunities overflowed. She wanted to share this gift with other children in her community, so Ferst Foundation and then Ferst Readers of Lamar County was born.
Ferst Foundation partners with book publishers to select age-appropriate books for children. Each local affiliate of Ferst, like Ferst Readers of Lamar County, registers and pays for local children to receive one free book a month up until they turn five. This ensures that childhood literacy starts early.
In a more rural community with high needs and large numbers of children on free and reduced lunch, the opportunity to provide free books is of utmost importance. Statistics show that in low-income neighborhoods, the ratio of books is one for every 300 children and that children who aren’t reading at grade level by the end of third grade are four times as likely to drop out of high school. Therefore, providing these books and encouraging a love of reading at a young age has been priceless to families.
Since Ferst Readers began in Lamar County, more than 90,000 books have been mailed to participating families.
Kelly Hughes, Branch Manager at Barnesville-Lamar County Library personally has seen the impact that all these books can have.
“We started working with Family Connection, years ago,” explained Hughes. “Each Family Connection coordinator would reach out to organizations within the community to be sure families had the services they needed. Ferst Readers was able to really fulfill a need for families to be able to read to their children.
Then, people who were passionate about literacy began to support the program financially. And people who supported the program then are still wanting to support it now. Everyone involved understands the importance of early childhood literacy.”
Today, registration for the Ferst Readers of Lamar takes place at the library and through the health department. Donors continue to support the program, and establishing the endowment for Ferst Readers through the Barnesville-Lamar Community Foundation, an affiliate of CFCG, ensures funding is available to provide books to families for years to come.
School administrators and educators within the community acknowledge the difference in reading levels they see in children who were part of Ferst Readers. Families also know that there is a benefit to having these books mailed to their homes each month from infancy to Kindergarten.
“We did kindergarten registration last year, and we had so many families who wanted to be part of the program,” Hughes continued. “Families who had an older child as part of the program wanted to be sure their youngest child received all the benefits of it too.”
For Kelly Hughes, the program is personal.
“When you are sharing a book with a child, it’s almost like a love language,” she said. “Of course, I registered my own granddaughter in the program, and she developed a fondness for reading before she started elementary school. I know it’s because of the books she had in front of her through the library and the Ferst Readers.”
At CFCG, we are proud to be the partner for Ferst Readers of Lamar County’s endowment fund at the Barnesville-Lamar affiliate foundation. Nonprofit endowment funds, like the one established by Ferst Readers of a Lamar County, are often an important step in ensuring an organization’s good work can benefit the community forever, and we would be happy to talk with you more about how you can support the sustainability of nonprofit organizations across central Georgia by giving to any of our nearly 50 endowment funds for local nonprofits at CFCG.
To learn more about Ferst Readers of Lamar County and the work they are doing around childhood literacy, visit ferstreaders.org. If you are interested in learning more about organization endowment funds at CFCG, click here.