“Books from Birth” hopes to address education disparity in D.C.

Earlier this week at a Southeast Neighborhood Library, D.C. Council Member Charles Allen introduced the creation of a bill that would mail a book a month to every child under the age of five in the District as part of his “Books from Birth” program. This act is currently subject to review by Mayor Muriel Bowser.

Educational inequalities in D.C. are widespread throughout the city as many of the wealthier wards of the city provide better public education than some of the lower income wards. Education reform has been rampant in the city with the turn of every new D.C. Education Chancellor, but all with limited success.

The District has invested in trying to close the education gap by starting at younger ages. Many headstart programs have begun in the district where children can go to school a year before they start kindergarten. Allen’s new program, “Books From Birth,” will be the first program that will provide a form of education to children from the month they are born.

In addressing the education gap, Allen said, “We have households in the District that have hundreds of books and households where the only book in the house may be the phone book.”

“Books from Birth” will allow lower income families to start or expand libraries in their own home. Three-year-old children from lower income families hear on average 30 million fewer words than three-year-old children from middle or upper class backgrounds.

The monthly book package will also include information regarding local library programming for both adults and children. The books will be chosen by a selection committee in order to create a diverse range of developmentally appropriate books.

This proposed program will not be the first time in the Washington region that the government has sent books to students. In the summer months, the government has previously sent books to public school students to abate the disparity in learning opportunities amongst different income level families.

“Books From Birth” has also experienced considerable success in other states, like Tennessee. In the past 10 years, the state has distributed over 20 million books.

Photo: Ian Wilson via flickr

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