THE BLOG
02/13/2013 12:26 pm ET | Updated Apr 15, 2013

Planting a Seed at Bedtime

It's official -- we're expanding in NYC in May! Moving to a larger Pajama Program Reading Center has been a dream for all of us for several years. We'll now be able to invite 3,000 children here every year for reading sessions!

Many of the children we read with have been removed from school for long periods of time and do not have access to books to continue their reading practice. Their reading skills are far lower than their peers. Providing these children reading practice and their own books offers them a continued early reading experience they desperately need.

We didn't realize that every day we were planting seeds.

The seed, we realized, was giving children their own books. Bedtime is frightening for so many of them. A book that's their very own to read or look through under the covers may be the difference between a nightmare and a dream. Dreams are rare for these children but dreams are what gives them hope -- and that's what they need. The hope that someone cares, the hope that they will get through the painful, lonely night, and the hope that tomorrow will somehow be different is what we, together, can give them.

Our commitment to support literacy and reading for the children we serve will be front and center at our new location. We have formed a Literacy Advisory Board to guide us through our assessment and measurement practices, plan pilot programs and schedule groups of children of all ages. Parents and caregivers will participate in our programs too as their support is a major component of each child's progress. so we'll need volunteers to participate with staff as readers and mentors for grade school children and teens in High School. We will introduce our programs in New York City and Westchester County and will slowly expand through our chapters across the United States.

Over the years we've seen how those seeds grow into Redwoods:

Jesse, age 7 told us, "I like to read because it help you get smart."

Ethan, age 5 says, "I like to read books because it helps me remember words."

A teacher in the Bronx wrote to us, "Your reading sessions, we believe, is a wonderful bonding experience which fosters meaningful one-on-one communication with the children. It helps our children with language development and social skills."

At the end of their first visit to our Reading Center the children choose a book to keep and they always ask us, "When do we have to give these back?"

We smile and say, "Never. Sweet dreams."

Pajama Program began 12 years ago with a simple purpose: to give children in need a book to read at bedtime and new pajamas to comfort them through the night. Little did we know how this simple purpose is the seed that grows into a giant redwood with roots that reach beyond a child's imagination.

And imagination leads to dreams.