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Housing Authority provides books to families with financial needs

One of the Prosper Lincoln community agenda objectives is to enrich early childhood development at home through the promotion of reading aloud 15 minutes per day. Lincoln Housing Authority (LHA), which provides affordable housing to families currently undergoing financial stress, has done a remarkable job in spreading this important message.

Public Housing Authorities across the country have been challenged to participate in addressing the critical issue of literacy and grade-level reading. LHA responded to that challenge by developing the Reading Matters program. Reading Matters is promoting literacy and boosting educational outcomes by presenting new, diverse, age-appropriate books as well as used books to children 14 and younger, whose families reside in LHA’s housing programs. Along with the distribution of books, education is also provided to families regarding the importance of Reading Aloud 15 minutes each day.

Purchase of Books: Books are purchased through an on-line resource that offers thousands of new books at 50 to 90 percent off retail price including award winning and culturally inclusive books. LHA also uses a national book bank which offers hundreds of new books for only the cost of shipping and handling. LHA has purchased more than 4,000 books at an average cost at $0.76 per book.

Distribution of New Books: New, diverse, age appropriate books are purchased to distribute to children 14 and younger, who reside in one of LHA’s housing developments or whose families participate in the housing choice voucher program. Books are distributed at the time families are initially housed. Then, at least once a year, a new book is provided for each child. Books to take home are selected by the parent or the child.

LHA also conducted Book Fairs at four housing developments allowing tenants to come and choose books from a large selection on display. The book fairs were an opportunity to not only give books to the children but also engage in brief discussions with parents on the importance of reading and reading aloud. In locations where book fairs were not possible, LHA selects books based on ages of children and books are delivered to individual housing units.

Distribution of Used Books: Gently used books, donated by employees, local businesses, and the community are made available to all families at the LHA central office, the maintenance office, family resource center, and all leasing offices and club houses. Children and families are welcome to browse and take several books home. These are available for children to keep, and they can always come back to get more used books. In the first year, two businesses conducted book drives with LHA providing signage and collection tubs. Both drives were successful in receiving both new and used books as well as cash donations for Reading Matters.

Promotion of Reading and Read Aloud 15: Information is given to every family to encourage them to “Read Aloud 15” by either listening as children read books aloud or reading aloud to children for at least 15 minutes each day. Each family is given a tracking postcard (postage paid) for an incentive such as Lincoln Children’s Zoo passes, extra books and donated prizes. A local restaurant donated 250 bookmarks (3,000 per year) each month for a year. Once a child reads and records seven books on the bookmark, they can return the bookmark to the restaurant for a free kid’s meal.

“As a committee, we’ve been very proud to see the Reading Matters program grow and have appreciated the support of our employees, residents, community members, businesses and local funding organizations, said Doug Marthaler, Tenant Service Manager at LHA. “There are many LHA employees who have been involved in hosting book fairs, distributing books to individuals, and other activities related to Reading Matters.”

 The program has been so successful locally that LHA was invited to present to other housing authorities across the country, so the program can be replicated in other communities. 

“This an excellent example of community members stepping up to the Prosper Lincoln focus on early childhood,” said Michelle Suarez, “They are utilizing their unique, face-to-face position with families to promote a family environment where reading is a priority.”

Quotes From Our Supporters

Prosper Lincoln is one of the most exciting community engagement and community-building efforts happening in the country.  It’s a real model!

Dan Cramer, Co-founder, Grassroots Solutions, St. Paul, MN

Prosper Lincoln will not only benefit all of your kids and your community; it is also a model for similar efforts around the country, thanks to the leadership of LCF.

Richard Ober, President & CEO, New Hampshire Charitable Foundation; Founder Community Foundation Opportunity Network; Concord, NH

Communities across the US are searching for innovative initiatives to improve economic opportunity and mobility.  We can all learn from the amazing work of Prosper Lincoln!

Brian Collier, Executive Vice President, Foundation for the Carolinas

Prosper Lincoln is breaking new ground in economic revitalization without displacement.

Ellen Shepard, CEO, Allies, Chicago, IL

To see an entire community come together to ensure all Lincoln residents are successful is very inspirational.  Congratulations!

Nancy Van Milligen, President/CEO, Community Foundation of Greater Dubuque, Dubuque, IA

In my regional and national work in community development this is one of the most unique and exciting strategies for true change I have seen!

Del Gines, Senior Community Development Advisor, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City Omaha, NE

Bringing together a multi-sector group of committed Lincoln residents will support prosperity for all.  Congratulations on this excellent collaboration.

Holly C. Sampson, President, Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation, Duluth, MN

Diverse voices from across Lincoln came together so that current and future generations can thrive. This is no small feat, and it’s inspiring to see that collective vision inch closer to fruition. You can consider yourselves a model for other communities starting to embark on this work.

Megan Powers, International Program Officer, The McKnight Foundation Minneapolis, MN

There is no better example of the power of convening than Prosper Lincoln! Bringing together members of the community from all walks of life to enrich the City is inspiring.

Regine Webster, Vice President Center for Disaster Philanthropy, Washington, DC

Prosper Lincoln is creating a national model for building vibrant, equitable and resilient communities.  Systems thinking + the right resources!

Sandy Wiggins, Chair, Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) Washington, DC

Prosper Lincoln is an important approach to solving community problems. By bringing together local businesses, nonprofits, neighborhoods, government and faith organizations, they are bridging divides, building connections, and sparking opportunities in way that shows true community engagement.

Vikki Spruill, President and CEO, Council on Foundations

This is one of the most impressive community focus efforts I have seen. You are making considerable progress!

Cynthia Hardin Milligan, Trustee and former Chair of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Battle Creek, MI

Lincoln is one of a few cities across America where citizens and leaders from across different sectors have come together to tackle their community’s most complex challenges. Your ability to already show results and persevere is inspiring.

Ben Hecht, President and CEO of Living Cities, Washington, DC

Solving tough national problems like the opportunity gap begins locally, and Prosper Lincoln is leading the way.

Robert D. Putnam, Professor of Public Policy and author, Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

There is nothing more powerful in securing a community’s long-term health than evolving a shared vision through community engagement. Congratulations!

Rip Rapson, President, The Kresge Foundation, Detroit, MI