Berkshire Compact for Education Announces Third Annual Early Literacy Initiative 'Wee Read Berkshire County'


NORTH ADAMS, MASS. - The Berkshire Compact for Education and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) announce the Third Annual Wee Read Berkshire County initiative, to be held during the month of April in recognition of the Week of the Young Child and National Library Week, which are celebrated April 14-20.

Through Wee Read Berkshire County, 1,500 free copies of "The Tiny Seed" by Eric Carle will be distributed to young children at events throughout Berkshire County. The initiative is an effort of the Berkshire Compact and its collaborators to promote early literacy and encourage families to read to their children. Carle is the author and illustrator of more than 70 children's books. 

Wee Read Berkshire County draws upon the expertise of early childhood organizations and libraries from throughout Berkshire County.  The initiative's name is a countywide extension of Pittsfield's Wee Read program.

Along with the book, the Berkshire Compact will distribute its "Passport to Educational Success," which lists important milestones from early childhood education through grade five that lead toward success in school. Children also will receive a customized bookmark that has tips regarding the importance of reading to young children. Local leaders will read the book at selected events.

According to Publishers Weekly, "This picture book admirably conveys the miracle of a seed....Carle has an extraordinary kinship with nature. Here we have not just the explanation of the life of a flower, but drama, lessons of life and a lovely spirituality."

Wee Read Berkshire County will include "StoryWalk" events throughout Berkshire County along with story times at local libraries. StoryWalk™ is an initiative that combines a children's story with a popular walking route and connects families to their local business community. Pages of a book are displayed in store windows or inside buildings and children and their families walk through the display reading the story. The StoryWalk program was introduced in 2007 in Montpelier, Vt., by Anne Ferguson and was first replicated in Berkshire County by The Family Resource Center of Child Care of the Berkshires.

StoryWalk programs will be offered in the downtown areas of North Adams, Williamstown, Adams, Lenox and Great Barrington, at the Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge and at the Berkshire Mall.  Additionally, with support from the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation's Central Berkshire Fund, StoryWalks will be offered at the Becket Washington School, Berkshire Trail Elementary School, Craneville School and Kittredge School. The grant also supports sending copies of "The Tiny Seed" to families in the Central Berkshire Regional School district area.

Library reading hours will be held at the public libraries in Cheshire, Dalton, Great Barrington, Housatonic, Lee, Lanesborough, Monterey, New Marlborough, Pittsfield, Richmond, Sheffield, Stockbridge and West Stockbridge. 

Organizations that are collaborating on Wee Read Berkshire County include the Berkshire Compact for Education, MCLA, Berkshire Athenaeum and the local libraries of Berkshire County, Child Care of the Berkshires, Berkshire County Head Start, the Pittsfield Public Schools, Central Berkshire Regional School District, the Community Health Programs Inc., the Berkshire United Way's Early Childhood Think Tank and Berkshire Children and Families.  The County's four Coordinated Family and Community Engagement coordinators - based in North Adams, Pittsfield, Dalton and Lee - play a leading role in implementing Wee Read Berkshire County. 

In addition to the grant from the Central Berkshire Fund of Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation, Wee Read Berkshire County is funded by MCLA,~the Friends of the Berkshire Athenaeum and Child Care of the Berkshires. In-kind staffing support has been provided by all of the collaborating organizations. 

The Berkshire Compact for Education was developed to promote the importance of higher education for all Berkshire County residents and to make education more accessible to both traditional students and adult learners. The Compact focuses on educational success starting in early childhood and is comprised of members from key area employment sectors, including finance, healthcare and specialty manufacturing, along with school superintendents, college administrators and faculty, municipal officials and representatives of nonprofit organizations.

For more information about Wee Read Berkshire County, contact Mary Nash, Berkshire Compact project coordinator or 413-637-3955.  For a full schedule of events and activities, go to uploads/textWidget/3754.00055/documents/WeeReadSchedule2013.pdf .