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VOL. 10 | NO. 40 | Saturday, September 30, 2017

Porter-Leath, Books From Birth See Merger as Win-Win

By Don Wade

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Shelby County Books from Birth has merged with Porter-Leath in a move that Porter-Leath vice president for development Rob Hughes said should be “seamless.”

Announced at Porter-Leath’s Early Childhood Academy, Hughes says the merger just makes sense for two entities with the shared objective of helping disadvantaged young children.

Porter-Leath’s early childhood network serves more than 6,000 children in Shelby County. The Books from Birth program reaches more than 46,000 Shelby County Children, mailing out age-appropriate books each month.

Since its creation in 2005, Books from Birth has established itself as the largest of 1,700 affiliates under Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library.

The mutual goal of Porter-Leath and Books from Birth is to achieve kindergarten readiness for all children in Shelby County.

Hughes said studies show that children 5 and under living in poverty hear fewer words than children raised in non-low-income settings. While Porter-Leath has always had a focus on literacy, merging with Books from Birth takes things another step, Hughes said, and has the potential to ease the transition for children “learning how to read to reading to learn.”

There are some challenges built in, however.

“In Memphis, not everybody has a stable address,” said Books from Birth executive director Jamila Wicks. “This really gives us a deeper reach into the community and an alternative delivery method so the books don’t always have to go to the mailbox.”

The merger should help reach more children in key ZIP codes and provide Books from Birth with more outreach opportunities through various Porter-Leath childhood development programs.

“The question we always get is, 'After they get the book, then what happens?’” Wicks said. “Porter-Leath has many inroads with parents and families.”

Additionally, Books from Birth will receive administrative support from Porter-Leath, including human resources, finance and performance and quality improvement and IT and maintenance.

“This will give us access to their research and data,” Wicks said.

They will also share audit, insurance and occupancy expenses. Porter-Leath’s board of directors and Books from Birth’s advisory council will collaborate, too, and Books from Birth already is looking to grow a new initiative by which books can be distributed at well-baby visits at pediatric practices.

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