CAIN builds confidence, creates opportunities with books

Forget candy sweethearts, this Valentines Day one local non-profit hopes to spark lifelong love affairs between its youngest clients and . . . books.

Throughout February, Churches Active in Northside, CAIN, is accepting donations of gently used books to be given to children as part of its Choice Pantry offerings.

Research scholars and educators know that reading helps children build vocabulary, as well as academic confidence. But how much does vocabulary acquisition vary, based on family income level and social status? Quite a bit. Consider the research: By age three, children from privileged families have heard 30 million more words than children from poor families, according to the American Federation of Teachers. By kindergarten the gap is even greater.

Other research maintains that by age three, the observed cumulative vocabulary for children in professional families was 1,116. For working class families, the number dropped to about 740. Welfare families fared the worst, with their children's cumulative vocabulary averaging about 525 words.

The National Commission on Reading puts it simply: "The single most significant factor influencing a child's early educational success is an introduction to books and being read to at home prior to beginning school."

Since its official organization in 1991, CAIN has provided food, clothing, household items and emergency financial assistance for more than 300 low-income individuals and families. The non-profit, with a paid staff of just five part-time employees, relies heavily on volunteers for its ongoing programs and special monthly Food Pantry spotlights, like this month's focus on books.

CAIN Executive Director Mimi Chamberlain enjoys watching former clients become volunteers for the non-profit. ??"In the day to day, we can see the difference we are making in the people's lives that we serve," she says. "But it is amazing to see how much it means to give people the opportunity to volunteer. It's a great affirmation of the importance of the work we do."

One volunteer described CAIN, rated tops by the national Great Non-Profits review site: "This local charity is SUCH an asset to my community. They regularly bring awareness of need without guilt (for givers or receivers). I think this encourages donations and helps receivers avoid stigmatization. They also make it easy to give and have come up with some amazing ideas."

Do Good:
• Donate: Support CAIN's mission and its many programs by visiting the Network for Good.

• Read the Blog: Keep on the latest CAIN news and tell your friends about the CAIN Blog.

• Read, write, review: Visit CAIN's ranking page and read how others rate the organization. ??Writer: Elissa Yancey (Sonnenberg)

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