Chelsea Fitzgerald of Wallingford is having a good week.
She's turning 10 this Saturday and has a little something extra to celebrate when she blows out the candles.
Read To Grow, a Branford organization that encourages early childhood literacy, is honoring Chelsea for her charity work. Chelsea will be one of 15 being celebrated.
Chelsea's mom Gina tells me, "Chelsea attended an event in which her big sister received a community service award two years ago." Gina went on to say "Chelsea said, I need to do something too." Mom and daughter researched ideas and came up with reading and contacted 'Read To Grow'. Chelsea then spearheaded a book drive, contacting family and friends and making fliers to distribute in her neighborhood. The first year (2013) was such a success (they collected several hundred books), they decided to make it an annual event. Gina tells me they added a bake sale to the mix this past summer and collected 700 books. Word got out about Chelsea's charity work and a local paper's story boosted her book collection to 1,000 books! When asked about her favorite part of giving is, Chelsea says "knowing how happy kids are when they get the books."
While Chelsea now says "I love books so much," her mother says she was a "slightly reluctant reader as a toddler." It wasn't until her first grade teacher made reading exciting that Chelsea couldn't get enough! Gina says the teacher "allowed students to make their own reading choices with a library in their classroom, giving the students more control over their reading selections." Chelsea says her favorite part of reading? "I like to guess what is going to happen and then find out at the end... I like to read when I come home from school, reading helps me fall asleep at night sometimes."
Chelsea is being honored at Read To Grow's 15th Anniversary Celebration at Saint Clement's Castle in Portland on April 25th. Read To Grow partners with 12 hospitals in Connecticut for their flagship program, 'Books for Babies', which gives a new book to more than half of babies born in Connecticut, for free. The child is also mailed a free book on their first birthday if their parents choose. It's all to emphasize the importance of reading to your children as soon as when they're born. According to research by Hart & Risley, 'by the age of 3, some children in low-income homes haven't heard enough words to be prepared for success in school.' And, according to the U.S. Department of Education, children who aren't reading at a proficient level by 4th grade, are more likely to drop out of high school.
You can find out more information about Read To Grow including ticket information for the event where Chelsea will be honored by clicking here.
Chelsea, meanwhile, is setting her sights on a goal of collecting 2,000 books this year!