AMERICUS, GA (WALB) - The Books for Sumter Children Program currently serves over 1,000 Sumter County children. Each month, a child receives a free book in the mail. And they can be enrolled in the program until their fifth birthday.
In order for the program to remain free to children, program organizers have held the Love of Literacy Gala. This year's gala will be held on Thursday, February 11, at the Griffin Bell Conference Center in Americus.
Literacy expert Jean Irwin Hatfield will speak to the sold-out crowd. Hatfield is a big advocate for parents reading aloud to their children. Hatfield recognizes advancements in technology, like reading apps on tablets, but says there is no substitute when it comes to reading to children.
"You know you're putting a lot of visual things in front of your child, thinking that you're helping them with reading. In reality, they need your warm body and associate the warmth to the reading of the book, and there's no competing for that," Hatfield says.
Hatfield also mentions that the language of reading is much different than conversational language. Therefore, it's important for children to become familiar with the language of reading. Children from zero to five-years-old are beginning to develop many of their important skills and receptors inside their brain.
If a child does not become familiar with reading and hearing the words, it could affect their beginning education.
"Brains will actually shrink if you do not lay down those neurons. You have a smaller brain and so the screen is not doing it and the TV will not teach your child the [reading] language," Hatfield mentions.
Many Sumter County children are happy to be a part of the reading program.
Love of Literacy Gala co-chair Candy Riccardi says, "Everybody loves to get mail. I mean, not bills, but especially children love to get something with their name written on it and it's for them. That book is theirs."
Although Thursday's fundraiser is sold-out, you can still donate to the Books for Sumter Children program by making a donation at the Lake Blackshear Regional Library in Americus.
If you have a child who resides within Sumter County and is under the age of five, and would like to sign them up for the program, you can visit the Lake Blackshear Regional Library as well.