Hey Parents – Free Books for Your Kids!

D.C. is an expensive city, making it a hard place for young families to thrive. Just last week MarketWatch reported that Washington is the most expensive city for a family of four in the entire United States. The city’s free Pre-K-3 is a boon for local families and while a new program from the DC Public Library won’t have the same impact as free child care, it’s a pretty great perk for families making it work in the District.

Launching in February, you can sign up now to receive one free children’s book a month from the DC Public Library. The Books from Birth program is open to all children 4 years and 11 months old or younger, and the offer is per child in your household.

The Books from Birth program is designed to encourage reading among, and to, DC’s youngest residents. Research shows that children that live in households where they are read to on a daily basis show up to Kindergarten with more advanced vocabularies. As described in an article by Tina Rosenberg, a landmark 1995 study by Betty Hart and Todd Risley found that, “Children whose families were on welfare heard about 600 words per hour. Working-class children heard 1,200 words per hour, and children from professional families heard 2,100 words.” It’s not entirely clear why the word gap exists, but research has shown that access to books in the home affects the likelihood that parents will read to their children. The Books from Birth program will allow all children in-home access to high-quality, age-appropriate books.

DC’s book donation program may draw inspiration from a related policy initiative in Providence, Rhode Island. Providence Talks was the 2014 winner of Bloomberg Philanthropies $5 million dollar Mayors Challenge, and a recent article summarized, “After decades of failed educational reforms, few policymakers are naïve enough to believe that a single social intervention could fully transform disadvantaged children’s lives. The growing economic inequality in America is too entrenched, too structural. But that’s hardly an argument for doing nothing.”

Kudos are due to Ward 6 Council member Charles Allen for putting this initiative on the agenda, and the Mayor and members of the DC City Council for supporting it.

Over time we’ll see what impact the program has on school readiness and student achievement. In the meantime: hey parents — free books for your kids! Don’t forget to sign up here.

This post was written for Urban Scrawl. You can read it on the Urban Scrawl website here.

Impersonation of Minorities by White People: an Abridged Literary Guide

The 2015 edition of the Best American Poetry book series was recently published by Simon and Schuster including the poem, “The Bees, the Flowers, Jesus, Ancient Tigers, Poseidon, Adam and Eve” by Yi-Fen Chou.

The poem’s inclusion was the subject of immediate controversy because the author is actually a white man from Indiana named Michael Hudson, and he admits to having selected the Asian pen name to increase his chances for publication.

In an author note published with the poem Hudson explains, “After a poem of mine has been rejected a multitude of times under my real name, I put Yi-Fen’s name on it and send it out again. As a strategy for ‘placing’ poems this has been quite successful for me.” Hudson’s actions infuriated many readers who saw his methodology as an insult to Asian authors and an abuse of white privilege.

Continue reading

Seven Ideas to Improve DC’s Creative Economy

A recent strategic plan for the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities notes that support for artists reinforces other economic sectors. The plan states, “A 2010 study commissioned by the DC Departments of Planning and Economic Partnership quantified that more than 90,000 individuals are employed in the creative sector. Creative employment provides over $5 billion in earnings and accounts for 10% of the District’s jobs base. Beyond direct jobs, creative industries and talent provide competitive advantage to other key DC industries.” Here are a few small investments that could enhance DC’s creative economy.

  1. Increase half price theater ticket sales

Washington DC has the second largest theater community in the nation, behind only New York City. Whereas New York City has a visually prominent and efficient half-price ticket program it wouldn’t be surprising if you didn’t know that Washington has a similar program. The city should engage the tech community in a competition to increase half price ticket sales, and program results should be monitored closely, quarter by quarter. There is no reason that a tech team, perhaps paired with Theater Washington, Destination DC, or even the Capital Fringe Festival, couldn’t increase half price ticket sales through modest one time support and effective ongoing partnership.

Continue reading

© 2016 Robert Bettmann

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑