OREMC Reaffirms Commitment to Baker County Ferst Readers Program
Ferst Readers in Baker County is expanding its reach to 150 students, including Head Start, thanks in part to continuing support from Okefenoke REMC. OREMC Board Present Wayne Combs presented a $1,500 donation to Ferst Readers Program Manager Michelle Maddox and local community champion Lea Rhoden, executive director, Baker Prevention Coalition, Inc.
Giving back to the community is one of the seven cooperative principles. Last year OREMC made a donation to Ferst Readers to help establish the Baker County program and continue its support of existing programs in Nassau County, as well as Brantley and Charlton counties in Georgia. OREMC is able to make donations such as these by using unclaimed capital credits. Qualified organizations must be located in one of the eight counties OREMC serves.
“Having supported and seen the success of the Ferst Readers program we helped establish in Nassau County six years ago,” notes OREMC Member Service Representative Dewayne Johns, “and knowing Ferst Readers was interested in establishing the program in other communities, OREMC was more than willing to help bring the program to students at Westside Nursery & Prep School in Baker County. Education is the backbone of community development and the foundation of our cooperative principles.”
According to Maddox, “Our goal is to get parents to read to their children by providing a developmentally-appropriate book each month from birth to age five. Among low-income families, 61 percent do not have age- appropriate books for children. Ferst Readers works to close that gap by fostering a language-rich environment and promoting kindergarten readiness.”
The program is free to families living in participating communities, and every child under the age of five can be registered. Each month they will receive a new book, along with a parent newsletter that outlines activities, vocabulary and key outcomes related to the book. The additional materials help kids better connect their learning with what is being taught at school. Since the program’s founding in 1999, children who were Ferst Readers have demonstrated higher kindergarten readiness assessment scores and higher post-test gains among first graders.
While there is no cost to families registered with Ferst Readers, the cost to fund the program per child is $36 a year. For more information about Ferst Readers visit online at www.ferstreaders.org or contact Program Manager Michelle Maddox at 904-248-0165.