It depends on how many kids.  It depends on how many stories.  And, if you are one of the 10,000 members of the 12 Junior Leagues of Georgia, it depends on how much time you have to give.

Let’s just say 1 million minutes.

That’s how much time members of the Georgia Leagues – Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Cobb-Marietta, Columbus, DeKalb County, Douglas County, Gainesville-Hall County, Gwinnett & North Fulton Counties, Macon, and Savannah – have committed to reading to Georgia’s children from September 2009 to April 2010.

The League initiative – in partnership with Bright from the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning and its A Million Dreams and Counting program – addresses a universal need in kid’s literacy: the importance of reading aloud, adult to child, as a critical component of early childhood education. Studies have proven that children who are exposed to a rich vocabulary have a greater chance of success in school. By third grade, children must be reading to learn, not learning to read.

But the Georgia Leagues’ million-minute-read commitment is just one of many Junior League programs devoted to improving literacy for children and adults.  Some other examples of successful programs across the country include:

  • The Junior League of Baton Rouge (JLBR), in partnership with the Louisiana State University Agricultural Center, aims to educate and motivate new parents in their role as their baby’s first and most important teacher during the first three years of life with The Little Bookshelf progam.  It provides participating parents who take their baby to the LSU Mid-City Pediatric Clinic with a small bookshelf and 36 books, one for each month, during the child’s first three years of life.  JLBR volunteers will prepare joint radio Public Service Announcements to distribute to local radio stations; contact and deliver Little Bookshelf parent information to Baton Rouge pediatricians; prepare Little Bookshelf book and parent tip materials for distribution at the clinic and subsequent monthly mail out material; and work at Little Bookshelf events distributing free children’s books and parent information and helping children decorate their own “little bookshelf” as an art activity.
  • The Junior League of Huntsville’s Blossomwood Reading Buddies program, a partnership with the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program, provides weekly tutors/mentors to at-risk students at a local public school.  Volunteers are paired with a child who they will get to know during the school year through mentoring.  Each volunteer meets for about 20-30 minutes once a week with the student to read a book, catch up on homework, or help with a subject in which they may be behind.  The regular attention helps children develop skills and confidence.
  • Through the Talk, Play, Read program, the Junior League of Annapolis works with parents and children, ages 0-5 in Anne Arundel County neighborhoods, a lower-income neighborhood in Annapolis.  Junior League of Annapolis volunteers lead activities designed to develop reading skills, including story time, hands-on craft activity and hosting a speaker on a topic related to child rearing.  As a bonus, each child will leave with an age-appropriate book for his or her home library.  This event is free and open to the public.
  • The Leaders Read program, a project of the Junior League of Oklahoma City, is dedicated to developing early literacy skills in preschoolers.  Junior League volunteers spend time reading individually to at risk children at a local daycare center.  Children are then lead through an activity or craft based on books they have read together.  The Junior League provides book donations for the center and book for every child to take home every month.
  • The Junior League of Saint Paul‘s Library Kids program is designed to help children preparing to enter kindergarten develop a love of reading. During a child’s pre-kindergarten screening through the Saint Paul School District they are given a free book courtesy of the Junior League. The book is accompanied by a brochure for their parents on the importance of reading, and it also contains information on how to get connected with the Saint Paul Public Library. The brochure titled “Read, Dream, Achieve: How Reading can Impact your Child’s Future” is translated into Spanish, Hmong and Somali and educates parents that children, who are read to regularly learn to read more quickly, develop a longer attention span and other skills necessary for school. It also suggests that reading is an excellent way to establish a strong parent/child bond.