General Federation of Women’s Clubs Camas-Washougal (GFWC C-W) is helping young readers through their Reach for the Stars with Books program. This local effort, which places books into the hands of preschool students, recently won the organization’s state Community Improvement Program (CIP) First Place Award. They will now be entered into competition for a National placement to be awarded at the end June.

“Our program supports 1, 2, 3 Grow & Learn preschool readiness program offered by Educational Service District 112 at Hathaway Elementary School in Washougal,” explained Susan Bennett, GFWC C-W Vice President. “The goal is to enrich the children through growth and learning skills prior to entering kindergarten and pursuing their academic journey.” Upon the completion of seven reading sessions with their parent or caregiver, GFWC C-W presents each child an assortment of books, learning tools and a t-shirt in a backpack to take home to keep through their “Reach for the Stars with Books” Program.

Prior to schools closing, Grow and Learn Julie Jacobson, ECE Specialist II reads to the class

1,2,3 Grow and Learn was started at Hathaway Elementary in 2016. To increase attendance, Nancy Nass-Boone, Washougal School District Family Resource Coordinator, created an incentive program where on the child’s seventh session they would be rewarded with books. There was no program or budget for this, so Boone found gently used books and funded it with her own money. Nine students were awarded books that first year.

When GFWC C-W President, Pat Suggs, heard about Boone’s efforts, she recognized an opportunity for the club to help. And that is how “Reach for the Stars with Books” was born. In 2017-18 school year 16 backpacks were awarded and in 2018-19 they awarded 36. For the 2019-20 school year they will award 47 backpacks filled with books and learning tools. 38 backpacks were awarded prior to COVID-19.

On- site classes were suspended on March 11th.

With Stay at Home orders in place, on April 6, ESD 112 began virtual 1, 2, 3 Grow and Learn on a daily basis using Zoom. Because the family e-mail address is registered with EDS 112, they can track the children’s attendance. Whether a child who would normally attend class weekly at Hathaway attends more than once per week via Zoom, it still only accounts for one attendance to qualify for their backpack filled with books. Thus, accounting for the additional six backpacks being awarded.

“GFWC C-W was able to create “Reach for the Stars with Books” through multiple Camas Washougal Community Chest Grants, a strong partnership with Bi-Mart, multiple donations from Exterior Woods and previously awarded GFWC Literacy Grants made possible by Proctor & Gamble,” Bennett explained.

GFWC C-W is using their 2020 CWCC grant funds to expand their “Reach for the Stars with Books” Program to include all children enrolled in Washougal Preschool Programs. The programs they support with books are: WSD; EOCH/HeadStart; Ready, Set, Kindergarten (a Summer reading program); WSD Developmental Preschool and ECEAP Childcare/Preschool.

Lisa Young, WSD Extended Learning Coordinator Preschool and Before/After School Programs, has also been instrumental in procuring some quality books through Scholastic Books at just over $1.00 each.

GFWC C-W has 543 books ready for distribution to the children currently enrolled in the Washougal School District Preschool Programs. A second procurement and distribution of books will be made during the 2020-21 school year.

The GFWC Community Improvement Program Award aims to enhance the lives of our neighbors around the world by meeting community-specific needs that heighten the community’s awareness of the GFWC organization.

Photos courtesy of GFWC CW