Bring Me a Book, YMCA Instill Love of Reading in Long Beach Preschoolers

Bring Me a Book, YMCA Instill Love of Reading in Long Beach Preschoolers



  • —Photo courtesy Bring Me a Book

Young readers explore a book donated by BMAB.


For two years, the YMCA Early Childhood Program has partnered with a California nonprofit, Bring Me a Book (BMAB), to lend high-quality books to preschool children.

BMAB puts together tote bags, with one or two hardcover picture books in each, and delivers them to the classroom. Then, children take turns bringing one bag home each week. Also included is a reading journal, where the parent and child can respond together to the book.

Altogether, the program provides the children 30 weeks worth of books.

The idea is to foster bonding between parent and child, and to prepare children for kindergarten — getting them ready to read, in the parlance of educators.

“Reading to your child every day is so important,” Andrea Sulsona, the executive director of the YMCA’s early childhood education program, said.

She oversees five preschools in the city, with about 100 students each. Every child in the program is below the state median income. The children’s socioeconomic status, together with the large number of students for whom English is a second language, can put these children at risk of falling behind their more privileged peers.

“We’ve engaged low-income families that typically are the most at risk,” she said. “Maybe they’re not in the habit (of reading to their children). But the bonding part alone is priceless.”

Cristina Cisneros, of Lakewood, has been reading to her 5-year-old son, Ignacio, every week since her YMCA preschool adopted the program.

“It’s been really, really helpful,” the mother of three said. “Since I work and my husband works, it’s really hard to spend time with them. Because it was a homework thing, I had to do it.”

She said she hadn’t been a regular reader to Ignacio or his younger siblings before, but she’s thoroughly converted to the idea.


Cristina and Ignacio Cisneros.

—Photo courtesy Cristina Cisneros

“My son has autism, and he has a speech delay,” she explained. “But these books really helped him a lot, because now he can use sentences. Also, he talks a lot more. And thanks to that, he also plays with other kids. Even his teacher was surprised at how much he’s learned.”

Barbara Egyud, of BMAB, said these are the stories that make her job worthwhile.

“In a previous life, I had worked for the Long Beach Public Library Foundation,” she said. “I know these kinds of programs work.”

She said BMAB works hard to make sure the children can see themselves in the books, with titles like “Last Stop on Market Street,” by Matt de la Peña, included alongside classics by Dr. Seuss and Laura Numeroff. Many of the books included are bilingual, too, she added.

“We make sure the collection represents the children,” she explained.

Cisneros said Ignacio loves the books with animal characters, and that his younger siblings have benefitted from family reading time. Her 3-year-old son also is autistic, but he too has made gains in language this year, she said. And her 1-year-old daughter, Annette, often pretends to read. The program even benefitted her husband, she said, by helping him learn how to read in English.

At 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 29, Cisneros and the other YMCA preschool families who’ve completed the bookbag program take part in a celebration at Alexander Hamilton Middle School, 1060 E. 70th St.

The evening’s festivities will include performances by preschool children, family testimonials, a presentation of certificates, and photos with the storybook character Brown Bear. Refreshments will be served.

Each preschooler who completed the program will be given a BMAB tote bag, too — something they can use to bring books back and forth to and from the public library, continuing the shared reading tradition beyond preschool. Each bag also includes one new hardcover book.

“So they can start building their home library,” Egyud said.

For more information about Bring Me a Book, or to donate to the program, visit

Jennifer Rice Epstein can be reached

BMAB Southern California in the Press Telegram

Bring me a Book Foundation gives kids an early start on reading

By Rich Archbold

Five-year-old Abigail Villegas’ eyes lit up when she was asked about “Caps for Sale,” a popular children’s book.

The book, a 1938 classic written by Esphyr Slobodkina, tells the story of a cap salesman who has his hats stolen by monkeys, but he outsmarts them and gets his hats back.

The story teaches children about how to solve problems.

It was one of Abigail’s favorite books in a unique parent-child reading program developed by the Bring Me a Book Foundation.

“My daughter and I developed a super bond, having time to read books together,” her mother, Christian Valeria Sandoval, told a packed auditorium at McBride High School in Long Beach.

Abigail and her parents and grandmother were celebrating her graduation from a 30-week, in-home reading program completed by more than 400 YMCA children and families from five YMCA Greater Long Beach Early Childhood Education sites.

Bring Me a Book Foundation, founded in 1997 by Judy Koch, a former junior high school English teacher, provides books and other material to help preschool children read.

“Most of the families we serve do not have easy access to books,” said Andrea Sulsona, executive director of the YMCA early education program. “BMAB meets that need.”

Barbara Egyud, a BMAB staff member, said reading and literacy can be life-changing for low-income families.

“If parents are the child’s first teacher, then the home is the first classroom,” Egyud said.

There’s no question about the importance of early reading.

“Study after study proves that children who have exposure to high quality books, and who are read to on a daily basis, do better in school,” said Dale Petrulis, Bring Me a Book’s Southern California’s regional manager.

She said that, by the first grade, most middle-income families have read to their child for an average of 1,000 hours, but, for low-income children, that number drops to 25 hours.

Petrulis provided another startling statistic: Only one in 10 children who do not read on grade level by the third grade will ever achieve reading proficiency.

At the graduation ceremony, Beverly O’Neill, former Long Beach mayor, congratulated parents on taking the time, at least 20 minutes a day, to read to their children.

“What you are doing is so important for your children and yourselves,” O’Neill said. “It’s a win-win-win.”

Abigail’s mom said having different kinds of books about history, fantasy and adventure in different languages was “awesome.”

Another mother, Sarah Grimsbo, said her favorite part of the program was drawing and writing about the stories she and her daughter, Bernice, read in a journal.

“I was surprised and impressed at how much she was actually learning from what we read together, and I was able to see how much she is learning in school as well,” she said.

This is the YMCA’s first year in participating in the Bring Me a Book program. Other participants in Greater Long Beach include Young Horizons, Un Mundo de Amigos and Preschool Without Walls at Burnett and Mark Twain Library.

Egyud said the foundation also is about to launch its program with the Long Beach Unified School District’s Early and Head Start classes.

“This is a huge project that will reach over 2,200 children and parents,” Egyud said.

These children, like Abigail and Bernice, will be fortunate to have the resources of the Bring Me a Book Foundation to help them read, a necessary and enjoyable skill that will pay off for them the rest of their lives.

Author: Rich Archbold

Read original article here.

We've Moved!

BMAB has a new home at the Sobrato Center for Nonprofits in Redwood City!

With heartfelt thanks to the generosity of the Sobrato Family Foundation for creating this site to house local nonprofits affordably.

Thank you too — our new suite mates — New Teacher Center, for sharing their space with Bring Me A Book.  

We are so happy and grateful to be housed at Sobrato Center.  


Book Buddies Interview

June 2nd, 2015

Bring Me A Book (BMAB): What exactly is Book Buddies? 

Kristine: ‘We started Book Buddies—which was originally called “Adopt-a-Site,”—because we needed a way to refurbish and refresh the bookcase libraries Bring Me A Book had previously donated to these classrooms. Additionally, we were looking for a way to reinforce the importance of reading aloud to children in the classroom and in the home. We also wanted to be a model for teachers and provide meaningful, dedicated volunteer opportunities. We realized that simply dropping off a Book Case library without any follow up with the teacher and reinforcement of Bring Me A Book’s message was not going to help these children. 

BMAB: How long has Book Buddies been around?

Kristine: It started in the fall of 2006. Our first attempt was to reach as many school sites as we could and, as a result, we covered a lot of territory in the Bay Area. However, we only did that for one year. Since that first year, we have really focused on having a meaningful impact on a select number of classrooms in East Palo Alto, Mountain View and Redwood City.

BMAB: How many Book Buddies are there currently and how many classrooms do they serve?

Kristine: This past year there were 15 book buddies, who went to 15 different classrooms. There is an average of 20 children and 3 teachers in each classroom, which means 200 kids received two new quality books for their homes and 15 classrooms received 16 new books each.  

BMAB: How do you determine which schools the Book Buddies are going to read in?

Kristine: We originally chose sites based on where the book case libraries had been delivered. Now, we choose school sites that are in need and almost always where learning English is one of the children’s biggest projects. We also choose sites where we have a relationship with the teacher or have been referred to by one of Bring Me A Book partners’ such as the New Teachers Center.

BMAB: What is the biggest challenge Book Buddies face? 

Kristine: The limited English language of the children and in many cases is a great challenge. Also, great read-aloud book selection each year is a challenge, as well as something; I think we do very well. We change the selection of books every year, and sometimes change the entire collection to make sure classrooms and children are always exposed to new books. The best read-aloud books are a special collection- they need to be large, colorful, engaging, the language needs to be simple, and this becomes more challenging each year to pick new books that fit this criteria. 

BMAB: What has been the most rewarding aspect of Book Buddies?

Kristine: Being a book buddy directly, going back to the same children in the same classroom, having the children recognize you and remember you and looking forward to seeing you. It is sort of like being a grandma and the children are just adorable. It is also special when you are lucky enough to connect with a teacher. And of course, giving the books to the children. Their eyes really do light up when they receive their very own copy of the story. 

BMAB: What is the most important thing you have learned from your time as a Book Buddy and running Book Buddies?

Kristine: I have learned a lot about how to read aloud to children and learned how to be an engaging grandmother-type to these children. Book Buddies also serves an important purpose in helping Bring Me A Book choose and really test in a classroom environment, the best read-aloud books. In the future, we are hoping to help the teachers learn how to read aloud by not only watching the Book Buddies—who are each trained readers, but also by giving the teachers the Book Buddies training videos. We would also love to be able to send the training video home with each child to help teach parents how to read aloud to their families.