DANSVILLE — The idea is to bring brand new books to small children, and help them grow in the community.
Dansville Central English teacher Janelle Rinker created a non-for-profit group called Rinker’s Readers and held her first open house event on Oct. 27 at the Primary School Cafeteria.
Rinker created this literacy group for children ages newborn to five in order to guarantee they have held and read at least one brand new book in their lifetime.
There were seven stations all wrapped around the theme of the book “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” by Bill Martin Jr.
Several other organizations were available at the workshop, Dansville Public Library, Dansville Artworks, and WIC.
“This enforces the idea that if you can’t afford a huge amount of books, you can still do a lot with just one,” Rinker said. “We want to show parents all the things they can do with just one book.”
It all started with Rinker’s three-year-old daughter.
“I read to my daughter and she has a lot of great moments centered around books in the house,” she said. “Not a lot of kids have that. I teach the 11th and 10th grade students, and I see the effect of this later on.”
Rinker said that every moment a parent spends talking with their child they are promoting literacy.
“The children’s minds are like sponges,” she said. “They take it all in.”
Rinker added that she wanted the bridge the gap and bring all the organizations together to help the community.
“We are getting parents and children together to have fun talking about books,” she said. “I chose books based on what my kid is interested in, since she is only a year younger than the Pre-K kids.”
Dansville Public Library Director Terry Dearing said it is great to get all the networks together to promote literacy.
“I am glad Janelle invited us, and we have the opportunity to meet the little ones and their parents,” she said. “We have a pop up library available to get them set up with library cards.”
Dearing said she wants to encourage parents to start reading to their unborn children.
“Reading is so important,” she said. “We are encouraging parents to read to their children.”
Rinker’s Readers is a very important program, Dearing said.
“This highlights the importance of reading to a child as early as you can,” she said.
Dansville Central English teacher Ani Rosario has partnered up with Rinker’s Readers.
“Janelle has spearheaded it, but we are all a part of it,” she said. “I think it is wonderful to promote early literacy. It is very important in the child’s development, and it links them to what they do the whole time they are in school.”
Rosario said that Dansville is a high poverty area, and parents can’t afford the brand new books.
“We want them to have the experience of opening a brand new book that is all theirs,” she said. “We offer brand new ones to kids coming in. Parents often have to decide between buying food or buying a book, so they buy food. We offer the books. This is about the good of the community.”
Dansville Central Pre-K teacher Linda Thompson said she is amazed by this program.
“This program is covering so many areas,” she said. “I love that everyone is coming out to reach out to the kids.”
Thompson has spent her whole career working with Pre-K children.
“It makes my heart happy to watch them start out as little ones and see where they go,” she said. “I am very lucky, because the high school is right next door, and the students come back to see me.”
One of Thompson’s first students was at the event with his little sister.
“One of my first students brought his little sister with him tonight,” she said. “That made my whole night. I am so happy he brought her to this.”
Thompson loves seeing them grow up.
“Most students grow up and move on, but we are lucky to have them all stay here,” she said. “I love working with this age group.”
Superintendent Paul Alioto said he was surprised by how much creativity went into the program.
“I love it. I am glad to see how much community involvement went into this,” he said. “We have all of these great organizations here, and Senator (Cathy) Young is represented, plus we have high school students volunteering their time to help the little kids. We have them handing out flyers, taking photos, and staffing the tables.”
“Incredible things happen when so many people come together to encourage literacy,” Alioto continued. “The greatest reward for a teacher is to have a kid they taught come back as an adult with their own child (or sibling) and tell them how important that teacher is to them. I can’t find the words to express how meaningful that is.”
Rinker’s Readers member Debbie Betts said she helped put this together.
“I love how the teachers you meet went to school here, and now they teach here,” she said. “That tells you a lot about the community. Everyone is so invested in it. They all believe in the community.”
Betts was in charge of handing out the books and hand-made bags to the children.
“They have been so adorable getting their books,” she said. “They throw the bags over their shoulders and take ownership of it. We have them take the books, and hope it means more to them with all the activities they do here.”
Jim Cuthbertson of Sen. Cathy Young office had a letter from the senator.
"Early childhood education, especially fostering a love of reading from a young age, sets children on a path to success and happiness. When parents and children read together they build tremendous bonds, cultivate creative thinking and reasoning, and promote overall health and wellbeing," Young wrote. "It is wonderful to see people like Janelle Rinker and everyone involved in Rinker's Readers working to promote learning for student of all ages in Livingston County. The mission of Rinker's Readers is laudable and I applaud you for taking the initiative to encourage literacy in our community."