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Mercer Island Seniors Help Promote Literacy

Seniors living at the Island House assisted living facility work to foster literacy in disadvantaged children and adults.

Located just across the street from Mercer Island's only , residents describe themselves as avid readers and know the value of literacy as a means of earning and achieving success.

So when they learned that 61 percent of low income family homes have no books for their children, and that a high percentage of adults in the U.S. are illiterate, a group of seniors at Island House — a Merrill Gardens community on Mercer Island — decided they wanted to be a part of the solution.

“The goal is to engage our seniors to foster a love of reading in at-risk children,” said Caryn Shively, community relations director for Island House. “Our residents want to do their part to help kids grow to lead literate and successful lives and being a vital part in helping our regional community.”

The seniors decorated book plates that will be distributed in books donated to at risk children while learning about literacy problems in this area and how literacy is essential to lifelong success.

The book plate project started after hearing a presentation from members of the Seattle Alumnae Club of Pi Beta Phi Fraternity through Page Ahead (www.pageahead.org). The Mercer Island seniors discovered that the number one predictor of academic success in childhood is children who have books in the home and are read to on a regular basis and that so many of society’s problems are rooted in illiteracy. For 100 years, Pi Beta Phi has been a pioneer of philanthropy particularly in the fields of education and literacy providing and enhancing tools, which support literacy skill-development in early childhood education programs and other preschool programs. Last year Page Ahead — the primary literacy organization supported by the Seattle Alumnae Club of Pi Beta Phi — gave more than 160,000 new books to 55,000 children in need in 28 counties across Washington.

In addition to donating books and money, the Seattle Alumnae Club of Pi Beta Phi aids Page Ahead with motivational reading events to excite kids about reading, and to provide books to read, share, and cherish.

Studies have shown that providing new books and developing reading activities that empower at-risk children helped 91 percent of children grow more interested in reading and learning. Also, 75 percent of children increased the amount of material they read, and 74 percent of parents became more involved in their child’s reading.

As one Island House resident said, “I was skeptical before hearing this presentation, but I am glad I came. I had no idea the illiteracy problems were that great around here and am glad to help any way I can."

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