ORLANDO, Fla. – A Central Florida man is on a mission to change lives through reading, specifically, toddlers and babies with his children’s literacy organization.
“If a child hasn’t been exposed to words or reading, they can arrive to school 13 months behind developmentally,” CEO of Need to Read Roderick Zak said.
Zak is helping families in under-served communities gain better access to books.
“Reading to them helps develop pre-reading skills so they come to kinder-garden already ready poised to do well in school,” he said. “It’s so significant; 85% of the core brain development is by the time a child is 4 years old.”
The nonprofit organization was created almost 2 years ago. They organize Book Bundles, which are packs of six to eight books and they’ve had two book giveaway events since starting the foundation.
The Book Bundles are helping young parents develop personal libraries for their babies. The goal is to help families create an environment that offers children a greater chance of success.
“The biggest hope is for this to become a first-class nonprofit that’s providing books all over the country,” Zak said.
Need To Read has already given away 18,000 new books in less than 2 years and it also provides training for parents.
“If you walk in a grocery store, tell a baby, you know ‘This is a red cereal box, this is a black chair, this is a brown table’ just consistently identify the world for the babies and some parents are just not aware that you need to be talkative to a baby,” Zak said.
The organization is also creating reading corners, spaces where families can bring their little ones for reading sessions. The first one is in south Apopka and it’s getting ready to open three more in Pine Hills and at Rosen preschool in the Parramore area of Orlando.
“The book corners help to reinforce learning and pre-reading skills," Zak said. “They facilitate a weekly storytime, every week.”
For Zak, it’s a passion that began that was inspired by his own experiences as a child.
“I knew about my own deficiencies in reading comprehension at an early age because of this lack of exposure,” he recalled. “I went to the home of the smartest kids’ in school and he had his own personal library and I said to myself ‘When I have children, that my children would have plenty of books’ and we facilitated that.”
Now, he’s making that mission easier for struggling families.
“The families that get this, you should see how big their eyes are when they realize like, 'Whoa, I can just do this little thing like being talkative and reading to my child and my child will be on par with any other child.”
The nonprofit’s mission is only possible with help from the community.
Anyone can become sponsor a family to receive a Book Bundle. For more information on how to become a sponsor visit: https://www.feedtheneedtoread.com/