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Books from Birth looks to instill love of reading
Program provides free books for children from birth to 5 years old
SS autumn turner
Autumn Turner says reading to your child at an early age can boost their academic achievement once they enter school.

With 90 percent of the growth of a child’s brain happening between birth and 5 years of age, it’s never too soon to begin reading.
“Reading to a child can raise his or her IQ by six points and that’s quite a notable amount,” said Autumn Turner who was promoting the Books from Birth initiative when she spoke to McMinnville’s Noon Exchange Club on Tuesday. Books from Birth is a collaboration with the Dolly Parton Imagination Library that seeks to put books in the hands of all children up to age 5. “We have to target birth to 5 if we’re going to have any impact.”
Turner, who serves as director of teaching and learning with the Warren County School System for grades pre-K through sixth, says parents who read with their children at least three times a week will, in all odds, see their children reading in the top 25 percent of their grades once they are in school.
“The number of books in a home is directly correlated to academic achievement,” she said.
The habits set in motion during the first five years of a child’s life continue when they are older and will play a role on how successful a person becomes in life, Turner says.
“A student who is not reading at grade level by age 9 is 10 times more likely to drop out of school,” Turner revealed. “They will also go on to earn an average of $12,000 less a year than those who are reading at or above grade level by age 9.”
Poverty and crime are directly related to reading skills, Turner noted, pointing to studies that show 70 percent of prison inmates are illiterate.
Warren County presently has 62 percent of its students who are eligible for free or reduced lunches (although a new program provides free lunch for anyone who wants it up to middle school). The number means 62 percent of students are from families living at or below the poverty level, a level Turner said is directly linked to reading achievement.
“That all begins in the home before the first day of kindergarten,” Turner said.
To help reverse the cycle of poverty, Turner said the local school system, in partnership with Dolly Parton and other individuals and businesses, want to put books in the hands of every pre-K child in Warren County.
“Right now 45 percent of children of eligible age are signed up,” Turner said, noting it increased by 12 percent in just the last year. “Athens has 95 percent signed up. We would like to be like them and have every child signed up with Books from Birth. It’s absolutely free to them.”
The local Books from Birth presently costs $14,700 a year. That’s the money that has to be raised locally to match the amount Books from Birth contributes. Dolly Parton provides money for postage to send all the books. The books are sent to homes once a month.
Anyone who would like to sign up their child for the free books, which are offered no matter a person’s income, can do so by contacting Turner at 668-4022 and going to extension 277.
You may also pick up applications at the Southern Standard. You may also go online to and sign up.
Turner is also supporting the Children’s Reading Foundation that oversees the Ready for Kindergarten, Read 20 and Read-Up Summer reading campaign.