The challenge: Just as collaboration is key to community action on housing equity, so it is for Tahoe/Truckee education partners to bridge the academic achievement gap for children experiencing socio-economic disadvantages. Reading proficiency in third grade predicts future academic success. Data from the Community Collaborative of Tahoe Truckee’s 2019 Scorecard shows that 74% of Tahoe Truckee Unified School District third graders are reading proficiently, while disadvantaged students are at 56%. As a point of comparison, national figures for reading proficiency in third grade are 40% for all and 20% for disadvantaged, so we are way above the dismal national curve.

Science says — parents are instrumental: Scientific research reveals the exponential capacity for brain growth in babies and toddlers. This growth correlates with quality parental interactions, including reading, talking, and singing. Parental interaction is also vital to an emotionally healthy parent-infant relationship, the foundation for all subsequent learning, including the ability for children to comprehend what they read years later. Early verbal interaction determines the size of a child’s vocabulary by age 3, and can predict reading proficiency in third grade. This is crucial because, through third grade, children are still learning to read — but by fourth grade, they are reading to learn.

Brainy babies … the power of babble: An emotional moment for new parents is the sound of their infant beginning to babble. This sets the stage for the give and take of talking and reading to a child. Babble is a baby’s conversation-starter. When a parent looks, listens, and responds respectfully to the baby, a powerful emotional connection is made. A wonderful example recently went viral. Comedian DJ Pryor and his 19-month-old son Kingston, held a riveting “conversation” without Kingston using a single “real” adult word.  Kingston’s engagement and expression along with his father’s response revealed a joyful parent-child relationship. This is a must-Google!


“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”       ~ Dr. Seuss

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Reading out loud: Before writing existed, storytelling was a unique, human tool for passing on a society’s culture to new generations. Telling and reading stories remains extremely relevant today. Reading aloud to a baby in utero helps babies recognize their parents’ voices and promotes early bonding. Reading with emotion and inflection promotes a child’s love of reading. Nancy Wilkins, retired Truckee Elementary teacher, recounted the exact moment the reading spark was lit for a young student in her class for struggling readers. The boy had been begging to get out of the class when, one day, Nancy shared a special book full of alliteration and fantastical stories, Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories. As Nancy began reading The Elephant’s Child, the boy was sitting with his head lowered until a particular refrain, “… the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River,” made his head snap up. This sparked a new interest in books that soon correlated with steadily rising grades. Note: New research shows that reading out loud, even to oneself, improves information retention significantly better than taking notes or reading silently. College crammers, take note!

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Missy Mohler, a local environmental educator, recently shared a great example. While traveling abroad in her 20s, Missy discovered Gerald Durrell’s autobiographical book, My Family and Other Animals, about his family’s decision to leave dreary England and live an adventurous life on the island of Corfu, Greece. Missy loved this book and read it aloud at night to friends while camping in tents in Africa. Later in life, Missy checked out the book from the Tahoe City Library and read it to her school-aged children who also fell in love with the story. Two months ago, Missy’s daughter, Makaiah, now in her 20s, was traveling in Greece with a childhood friend and found a copy in a bookstore. They read it aloud to one another, and spontaneously changed their travel plans for an extended stay in Corfu, where they discovered travelers from all over the world who love this book and travel to Greece to retrace the Durrell family’s footsteps. Reading is a powerful legacy.

~ Ruth is a member of Friends of the Truckee Library, which is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting and supporting the Truckee Library. Visit for dates/times, online reading programs, and reading lists or contact (530) 550-7984 or for questions.

Boost Your Child’s Literacy


  Public library summer reading programs: Free reading challenges and fun events at Truckee, Kings Beach, and Tahoe City libraries

  Neighborhood reading programs: Free weekly reading activities at Henness Flats, Truckee Pines Apartments, Donner Creek Mobile Home Park, Community House, and Tahoe Vista Park

  Summer lunch and activities with the Truckee Library at Meadow Park — Free

  Summer day programs: Truckee-Donner Recreation and Parks District Camp Trudaca, Boys & Girls Club, Tahoe City Public Utility District Camp Skylandia, KidZone Camps   

  K Camp and Summer Scholars at TTUSD

  Glenshire School Library

  Aim High — Free middle-school learning and enrichment program


  Truckee Healthy Babies — Free home visiting for new parents (year-round)

  The Family Room at Truckee Elementary — Sierra Community House (formerly Family Resource Center of Truckee)

  The Family Room at Kings Beach Elementary — Truckee Tahoe Unified School District

  Kids’ Corner at Boys & Girls Club of North Lake Tahoe in Kings Beach

  Books on the Bus — bags of books on school buses for kids to read


  Story times at the libraries: lap sit, toddler, and pre-K


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