Love of Learning

Porter-Leath donates children’s books to support literacy

By Andy Meek

Porter-Leath’s recent donation of a few thousand books to its preschool students serves as one of the latest examples of how the nonprofit is exposing infants and toddlers to the written word in a larger push to prepare children for long-term learning success.

Porter-Leath Early Head Start development coordinator Angela Meekins reads donated copies of “We Live In Memphis!” with 3-year-old pre-K students at the Early Head Start building on North Manassas.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

The community-based organization, which has more than 160 years’ worth of history serving as a resource for at-risk children and families, recently donated Memphis-themed picture books from two local authors. The nonprofit distributed Perre Magness’ “We Live in Memphis!” book to its 4,500 preschool students and Grace Hammond Skertich’s “Goodnight Memphis” to 95 preschool classrooms.

The book distributions served more than one goal. Both volumes, said Porter-Leath development manager Rob Hughes, have a Memphis flavor to the content, introducing children to colorful landmarks such as the Mississippi River, Graceland, The University of Memphis and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

“Perre wrote the book for kids under age 5, and she wanted to teach children about the city they live in, which is a perfect fit for us – fostering curiosity among the students about where they live,” Hughes said.

According to Porter-Leath, the books also help parents and caregivers promote early literacy in their homes, since distributing books on such a large scale within the organization facilitates reading time.

The effort was also a purposeful complement to the nonprofit’s mission, since Porter-Leath puts considerable emphasis on its early literacy initiatives, which it says are making a big impact on the overall development of children it works with.

Porter-Leath recently donated Memphis-themed picture books from two local authors. The nonprofit distributed “We Live in Memphis!” to its 4,500 preschool students and “Goodnight Memphis” to 95 preschool classrooms.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

The nonprofit runs a Head Start program, and Porter-Leath says its efforts have helped more than 95 percent of Head Start students show improvement in the Language and Literacy domain of their LAP-3 assessment, a comprehensive method of facilitating and measuring childhood development through age 5. Meanwhile, all Early Head Start students showed improvement in the same LAP system section.

As Porter-Leath vice president of early childhood services Karen Harrell puts it, “When kids are read to, listen to words and talk about the stories, it helps prepare them for a lifetime of learning.”

As a partner agency of Shelby County Schools, Porter-Leath has access to resources and opportunities to prepare children for success in life, but that educational component is only one piece of a multipronged mission and organizational identity.

While it began as an orphanage, today Porter-Leath is a civic enterprise that offers a range of programs and services to children and families, including residential services, foster and adoptive care, early childhood and parent education, and senior services, among other things.

Porter-Leath’s Connections program, for example, refers to its runaway and homeless youth shelter. The organization also runs a mentoring program called Generations, which involves senior citizens being a presence in children’s lives, and an early childhood home visitation program called Cornerstone that gives pregnant mothers – as well as families of children up to age 5 – the proper tools needed for positive child development.

Spoonfuls, meanwhile, is the program that refers to Porter-Leath’s network of family day homes focused on providing nutritious meals to children each day.