Special Needs Network (SNN) is on a mission to collect 10,000 toys this holiday season in order to match a 10,000-book donation from Scholastic for SNN’s network of LA’s underserved children. The books are provided through the Scholastic Possible Fund, part of the company’s new literacy initiative “Open a World of Possible,” designed to elevate the importance and joy of reading for all children.
Continuing its tradition of collecting and giving away toys to children with autism and other disabilities, SNN is expanding its holiday give-away to include a wide array of new children’s books. The nonprofit plans to distribute the donated books and toys to thousands of South LA low-income children during a series of events held this December. SNN staff and volunteers will hand out the majority of the books and toys during the organization’s annual Christmas Care Toy Give-Away on Dec. 13 on the USC campus.
“Most people would be surprised to learn there are thousands of kids in Los Angeles who don’t have a single children’s book in their home,” says Areva Martin, Esq., SNN’s president and founder. “With the donation from Scholastic, we will not only be able to bring a smile to a child’s face this holiday but we will play a small part in improving literacy in South LA and tackling what’s called the 30-million word gap.”
It is well-documented that by age 3, children from upper-class homes are exposed to 30 million more words than children from disadvantaged or low-income homes, and most educators agree the word gap leads to the achievement gap and problems throughout school.
President Obama, parent groups and nonprofits all over the country have weighed in on how to close this achievement gap, which can have life-long ramifications. Though the approaches may vary, there is no dispute that encouraging kids to read and having parents read to kids are vital steps to increasing literacy.
One of the core groups supported by SNN throughout the year is the autism population. As the rate of autism continues to grow, now impacting one in 68 children, SNN has seen a dramatic increase in the number of families requesting assistance during the holidays. Studies confirm at least half of those impacted by autism are nonverbal or struggle with communication.
“Children with autism often struggle with spoken and written language and reading comprehension can be a challenge for regardless of where a kid is on the autism spectrum,” says Arshya Vahabzadeh M.D., a pediatric specialist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. “We increasingly recognize the positive brain development effects of reading to children, and attaining literacy. Children with autism are no exception, and by providing reading materials such as books, we take an important step to helping them to achieve their full potential.”
In order to meet the demand, SNN is reaching out to the community, asking for help collecting, toys, new clothing and toiletries. To assist in this effort, contact Connie at Special Needs Network at firstname.lastname@example.org.