Southwest Human Development, Arizona’s largest nonprofit dedicated to early childhood development is starting a new initiative, “Books for Babies..and Toddlers Too!” to raise funds for early literacy, which includes a children’s book writing contest. Jake Adams. chief development officer for Southwest Human Development talks about the initiative.
JOSE CARDENAS: Southwest human development, Arizona's largest nonprofit dedicated to early childhood development is starting a new initiative to raise funds for early literacy, which includes a children's book writing contest. Joining me to talk about "books for babies and toddlers, too," is Jake Adams, chief development officer for the southwest human development. Jake, thanks for joining us this evening. Southwest has been, human development, has been around for a long time. And of course the focus on child development has been around for a long time. But this is something new, not just for southwest human development, but nobody has ever done something like this.
JAKE ADAMS: I have yet to find any other projects quite like this. To give you a little bit of context, we have 850 employees, 40 programs, we serve about 135,000 children and families per year. Almost all under the age of five, zero to five. Each of our programs, each of those 40 programs incorporates literacy, because it is vitally important and it is one of the problems that we have in our community is children arriving in kindergarten unprepared with those basic early literacy skills. And, so, we incorporate that into each of those programs. Through that effort, we actually distribute over 100,000 books annually. We kind of have this idea that some of the things that they're teaching at ASU is social ventures and why not publish our own book. And so we decided to hold a manuscript contest and actually invite folks to write a manuscript for a children's book. We are going to act as the publisher, and hire the illustrator, do all of the editing, lay out the book and print it. So, we're going to use that book to serve the children that we work with through primarily through -- literacy programs, reach out and read and raising a reader.
JOSE CARDENAS: You've got two interesting and innovative aspects to it. One is the contest. The other is the funding.
JAKE ADAMS: Yes. So, you know, we are looking for investors through crowd funding, and so we have a campaign that is live right now. It started about a week and a half ago. We're halfway to our $10,000 goal. It has been a lot of fun. We have got to engage with a lot of folks, and it is an opportunity for folks who maybe aren't writers but like this concept and want to get involved. The campaign gives you perks for supporting the project.
JOSE CARDENAS: And this will be a way of paying the cost for those items you mentioned, the publishing and hiring illustrator and so forth.
JAKE ADAMS: Correct, correct. That will help with the costs of actually publishing the book, which it costs money to put a book out. And we're going to also have fees for the manuscripts that are submitted as well.
JOSE CARDENAS: Let's talk about the contest itself. First of all, what is the deadline for submitting and what is it that they need to submit? Proposal or the actual book?
JAKE ADAMS: Actual manuscript, 600 words or less. Deadline September 15th. For early birds, the submission fee is only $50. If you get it in before the end of August. And then it goes up $25 to $75 per submission.
JOSE CARDENAS: There are certain criteria in terms of what you are looking for.
JAKE ADAMS: Yeah, we're looking for a book that is geared for a child zero to three. My son, Oliver is 14 months old. There is a lot of different books that I read. I read Dr. Seuss books that are complex and, you know, 40 some pages. I also read little board books that are six or seven pages. We are open-minded to what the writer wants to write about. But we use the exact same criteria for this contest as we use when we select books and we work with reading is fundamental -- which you may have heard of. We use the same criteria, first edition project web site for any potential authors who would like to look at what the criteria are.
JOSE CARDENAS: Who is going to make the decision in terms of what book you select? I'm sure you will have many, many submissions.
JAKE ADAMS: We have literacy experts at southwest human development that will help with the first round. And then we have a fantastic group of final selection committee members, including Dr. Kathy short, professor at the university of Arizona, Caldecott selection committee. We have one of the writers for Mr. Rogers neighborhood, happens to be one of my colleague's sisters, which is terrific, and we also have a guy named Todd who actually founded little free libraries, which is a really cool concept where they actually build these -- they look like a birdhouse, and people put them up in their neighborhood and share books through them.
JOSE CARDENAS: The book itself will be for sale as well as being donated and used in the programs that you have.
JAKE ADAMS: Yes, so we're going to do a retail sales with the book. We are going to follow a model, buy one, give one. We will have these on sale online and in book stores, and when a person would buy one, we will distribute a book to a child that we serve.
JOSE CARDENAS: And we're almost out of time. Last question here. Talk about the program itself. Four schools and that's where you use the books.
JAKE ADAMS: Well, so, actually we're -- this is before the kids get to school. We're actually in low-income neighborhoods like -- low income apartment complexes. We work with the Arizona multi-housing association and do an eight week series through raising a reader and reach out and read program is in pediatric offices. We are in 60 pediatric offices and the pediatricians give a book to a child during their well child check-up and use that as a tool to encourage the parents and actually prescribe to parents to actually read to their child every day.
JOSE CARDENAS: It is great program. Thank you for joining us on "Horizonte" to talk about it.
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Jake Adams : Chief Development Officer for Southwest Human Development