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The Next Door Foundation helps Milwaukee children meet literacy milestones

If you give a child a book, you give them a chance!
Posted at 3:42 PM, Sep 01, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-01 16:42:08-04

Saquan Dowery, Jr. and his dad stopped by Next Door to pick up some books. Dad says they're making little Saquan smart.

"He's two, but he can tell you his birthday, he can tell you his mom's phone number, and I give that solely to us reading to him more," says Dowery, Sr.

The pair like to read together whenever they can.

"I feel like the actual reading of a book is kind of dying out," Dowery, Sr. says. "But you know, it's essential. If you can't read, then you can't function in everyday life."

And the staff at Next Door feel the same. Children who can't read at grade level by third grade are four times less likely to graduate high school, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

"Research has shown that children that grow up in homes that have books do much better when they go off to school," says Jackie Shanti, Next Door's Books for Kids program manager. "Their brains are developing so fast and reading is aiding in that language development. But not only the language development, but also the socio-emotional connection between parents and their children and their babies."

For those reasons, the staff at Next Door host a free community library every Thursday afternoon. It's not like your standard library — these books are donated and don't need to be returned.

"We have books for children from birth all the way through our readers that are adults. We have all kinds of books, not just children's books," Shanti says.

Because whatever your age, Shanti and Next Door want one thing from you...

"Keep reading!"

It's a promise Dowery, Sr. is happy to keep.

"Thank you, keep it up, I know it's a tough fight," is his message to the staff at Next Door. "But it's a fight that has to get fought and you know, we appreciate it."

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