College Savings

Bringing Literacy to Life with the Start U.Reading Program

By Sherri Galego, Director, Start U.Reading Youth Literacy Series

Did you know some library budgets in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts have been reduced by over 20 percent? This makes it difficult for community libraries to provide enrichment programs, technology updates, staffing and so much more.

One enrichment program continues to remain strong - the U.Fund Start U.Reading program. This program travels the Commonwealth annually providing communities with a fun and rewarding reading experience for preschool-aged children and their families.

Dora the Explorer meets a little girl at a Start U.Reading event last year.
I know well from my constant interaction with librarians that they love our program because it offers an engaging opportunity for families and children to gather around the topic of reading. My work with MEFA has been centered on encouraging student achievement at a young age and encouraging families to utilize all aspects of their local libraries.

As part of our programming, we want to encourage families to begin immersing themselves in their local libraries at a young age. Today's libraries are different from what I remember when growing up. Today's libraries offer research experiences for internet-savvy individuals ranging in all ages. Many libraries I've been in have cutting-edge technology and collaborate with local teachers on lesson planning. The earlier that children are exposed to the various areas of their libraries, the better learners they could become. That's why we want to reach them in the preschool years.

The U.Fund Start U.Reading program brings literary characters to life for children. After reading a couple of fun stories, popular characters like Clifford, Dora, Elmo, Pooh or Buzz Lightyear appear and come to life to entertain and engage with children. They act out books and dance with children, ultimately bringing the literature to life! The characters talk about reading at home and visiting the library for more fun activities. The more children are engaged in their preschool years, the more comfortable families will feel with learning what their libraries offer. At the events, families also learn why it's so important to start saving for college while these preschoolers are still in diapers.

Last year at the Chelmsford library, a precious little girl came to see Dora. While clinging tightly to her own Dora doll, with sparkling eyes and full of bright smiles, she dove onto Dora's lap. Her father spoke to me about their recent Make-A-Wish visit to Florida and how her highlight was visiting with Dora. When they learned Dora would be visiting their library, they immediately came. This unique, up-close, one on one experience with Dora right here in her own backyard made her recent Make-A-Wish experience even more special. It's for reasons like this that the U.Fund Start U. Reading program continues to provide communities with life-long memories!

Our next stop will be at the Taunton Library on March 8th at 11am. There we will be exploring space with Buzz! To find out the locations of more community events like this, view our calendar and join us as we bring stories to life.

Sherri Galego founded Linked Into Literacy (a division of Co-Marketing Plus, Inc.) over ten years ago. In addition to creating the successful U.Fund Start U.Reading series, Sherri has been a keynote speaker and advocate for organizations interested in learning how to create co-marketing events. She currently consults for companies developing literacy events and consumer promotions based on their individual needs. For nearly fifteen years prior, she was employed in the radio and television industry where she created marketing campaigns and consumer promotions for clients. Sherri and her husband are parents to two elementary-aged children, so they personally understand the financial struggles young families face of balancing college savings with other long-term financial goals. Sherri strongly believes in the importance of saving for college while children are young and she is dedicated to helping MEFA spread this message. Sherri holds an undergraduate degree from Saint Michael's College in Winooski, VT and certifications from the American University in Washington D.C.