Today I’ve got one more Wordstock interview for you: David Roy of Knowledge Universe, who sponsored the Children’s Stage this year. Unfortunately my audio recording was unusable so I ended up doing the interview over email. Although I wasn’t familiar with the name Knowledge Universe before, it turns out that through programs like KinderCare, they’re responsible for a lot of kids in early childhood settings. Good thing they love books!
David Roy, director of community partnerships at Knowledge Universe, answered some questions about Wordstock, the “Give. Share. Read.” program, and his thoughts on digital books.
GeekDad: First of all, could you tell me a little bit about Knowledge Universe for those who aren’t familiar with it? What is it, and what do you do?
David Roy: Knowledge Universe – United States, headquartered in Portland, Oregon, believes that the power of education changes lives. Every day hundreds of thousands of children take their first steps, learn to read and prepare for school through early childhood and school-age programs. The Knowledge Universe – United States family of companies includes KinderCare, CCLC, Champions, Cambridge Schools, Knowledge Beginnings, and the Grove Schools where more than 32,000 people share books, sing songs, explore science, teach a second language and help with homework in a nurturing and safe environment.
GD: What has your involvement been with the Wordstock festival? How does that fit into KU’s mission?
DR: Although we’ve attended Wordstock in the past, this was our first year sponsoring the children’s activity area. This was our opportunity to “level up” the children and family area, to make it a fun and inviting place for families to go in the middle of the busy festival. We were blown away by the number of families who attended. Partnering with Wordstock is a good fit for us, not only because our corporate philanthropic focus is on childhood literacy, but our company headquarters are in Portland as well. In addition to sponsoring the children’s activity area, we also underwrote scholarships for 19 teachers from Beach Elementary, a school we sponsor throughout the year, to attend Wordstock’s Teacher as Writer program this summer. While there, these teachers had the opportunity to improve their own creative writing skills while also learning new methods of teaching writing to their students.
GD: What was the “Read. Share. Give.” program? Is that still ongoing?
DR: Read. Share. Give. is our first-ever national book sharing program. It kicked off on June 30th with a goal of reaching “one million storytimes” this summer. In just three months, the program saw nearly 15,000 books “shared” by friends and families who logged their books online, across ten states and as far away as Afghanistan, Japan and Kenya.
To recognize this milestone, as well as National Literacy Awareness Month in September, KinderCare donated one book for every book shared and logged online through Sept. 30, 2011, to Reach Out and Read, a national organization committed to preparing young children to learn and read through giving new books to families.
While we dialed up the program during the summer to encourage reading and help prevent summer learning loss among young children, the program is still ongoing.
GD: What do you think about digital books? Do you think it will be a challenge getting books into the hands of kids who need them if the publishing industry moves toward digital vs. paper?
DR: Digital books can be a great way to learn – they’re interactive. Although digital books are becoming more and more prevalent, I think they’re unlikely to reach critical mass in children’s books. Such a large part of the experience of reading for children is their tactile development and fine motor skills. Even a baby chewing on a board book is part of the learning process. The challenge is that digital books make it more complicated to reach every child. Digital books are logistically easy, assuming kids have an e-reader. What about the kids who don’t have books at home? We know that in some of the lowest-income neighborhoods in the country, there’s only one book available for every 300 children and roughly 31 million children live in a home where there isn’t enough income to cover basic needs, including access to books. While digital books present a challenge as far as ensuring kids have access to books, we’re undaunted and will continue our partnerships with various organizations to get books into children’s hands.
If you’re looking for a cool way to share the gift of reading, check out the Read. Share. Give. website for more details! You read a book with your kids, then put a label with a tracking number (from the website) in the book, and pass it on — friends and family members can track where the book goes as it’s shared again and again.