Raising Readers in Kansas City

Raising Readers
Gary Crossley Ford and the Kansas City YMCA Head Start Program work together to build a lifelong love of reading.

Growing up in a home filled with books has a greater influence on a child’s educational success than a college degree.

Students with only a high school education who grew up in homes with large libraries of over a hundred books outperformed college graduates from home with fewer books.  A recent report stated the academic effects are measurable in adult literacy, mathematical ability, and technological prowess.

Head Start offers books to children from vulnerable homes giving all an opportunity to succeed

The YMCA of Greater Kansas City’s Head Start program has 5 locations around the city serving children up to 5 years old coming from homes affected by poverty, domestic violence, homeless, and other factors that could be a roadblock to their educational success. Through the Raising the Reader literacy enhancement program, HeadStart isn’t trying to teach toddlers to read, but instead to instill the love of books and learning at an early age.

“If we’re teaching them the love of books, then they will associate a book with either positive time with an adult or a positive experience of hearing the story. We’re using the book as a catalyst for stories, vocabulary enhancement, creative thinking, and brain development, says Amy McGee, the Family, and Community Engagement Coordinator for the YMCA of Greater Kansas City.

Amy McGee, Family and Community Engagement Coordinator for the YMCA of Greater Kansas City
Amy McGee, Family and Community Engagement Coordinator for the YMCA of Greater Kansas City

Gary Crossley Ford and the Ford Foundation donate books for 400 students from disadvantaged homes. 

Kansas City dealer Gary Crossey Ford recently joined with the Ford Foundation to help the Y raise readers by hosting a reading party and donating over $2,000 worth of books.

The donated books will be sent into homes for parents to read to students planting the seeds for a future filled with stories and learning.

“Physically these donated books are going home with these children to be in their homes for the next several years,” says McGee.

Joey Little and Frankie Petty from Gary Crossley Ford stopped by the Thomas Roque YMCA last week to help unload the books and were surprised at just how many books were being donated

“Oh my gosh. It was a ton – about eight large boxes. We got one shelf filled and an entire desk was just piles of books. It was so unique to hear how their processes at Head Start work, how their fundraising opportunities work, and what they actually will use the books for. They use them for children who are transitioning into kindergarten so they got a lot of books that focus on this. They also have a large minority presence and many of their families are bilingual so there are books geared toward that. Plus a lot of STEM books, books for anybody and everybody,” says Petty.

Frankie Petty, Culture Champion for Gary Crossley Ford

The Head Start Program is federally funded for 80% of its operation, and the remaining costs are covered by local donations, fundraising efforts, and partnerships 

“We are so grateful to Gary Crossley Ford and the Ford Foundation for this partnership,” says The Y’s McGee.  “We’re constantly looking for partnerships in the community to supplement the program and offer enrichment opportunities for our families. This played perfectly into that.”

That’s The Crossley Difference

Todd Crossley is a huge advocate for education. He loves helping all communities, but he has a special fondness for fundraisers geared toward kids and their education, their well-being. It just made sense for us to team up with somebody like the Ford Foundation who’s willing to back that kind of program. Not only did we benefit one school, but it was five schools, and over 400 children,” says Petty



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