Children, Inc. honors long-time volunteer's childcare and literacy efforts

When Children, Inc. supporters join together at the organization’s annual fundraiser Raising of the Green, they’ll celebrate children and families in our communities who are taking steps toward self-sufficiency.
They’ll also honor the individuals who have played integral roles within the organization when it comes to service and a belief in the capabilities of others.
This year’s honorary event chair and recipient of the Charity in Action Award is Julie Elkus, director of innovation and design at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and long-time volunteer with VISIONS, an organization that merged with Children, Inc. last year.
“I was really on the ground floor of VISIONS in getting it up and running when I first moved to Cincinnati 25 years ago,” Elkus says.
At the time, Elkus paired up with Marcia Simmons who had just received the initial funding for a childcare facility in the West End.
“She had written a master’s thesis as part of her nursing degree on teen parenting and just recognized the number-one reason teen parents drop out of school is due to lack of childcare,” Elkus says. “So she wanted to be able to address that need within the community.”
It was through her service at VISIONS that Elkus says she recognized the need for a new approach to emphasizing the importance of childhood literacy.
“The way in which we were communicating to our moms about that probably wasn’t very effective,” Elkus says. “We had some talking pieces about brain development and how much of the brain is developed prior to 2 years old and the impact of reading and language on the brain and the links between reading and language with success in school, but it was really presented in some sheets of paper and pamphlets and information that wasn’t particularly easy to read or very user-friendly.”
So she wrote the children’s book “When My Mama Reads to Me,” and co-founded Reading For Life to secure funds to illustrate the book, publish it in English and Spanish and distributed 80,000 free copies to places like preschools and physicians’ offices.
“When a parent sits and holds a child in their lap, that child knows that parent loves and cares for them, and they start to associate reading with that sense of love and companionship,” Elkus says. “I’m hoping that I have created that experience for families who may not have had an awareness of the importance before or had a book in their home before.”

Do Good:

• Support Children, Inc. by attending Raising of the Green 2014.

Volunteer with Children, Inc.

• Read to a child.

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a project manager for Charitable Words. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 

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