What can you make out of a box?
“Everything you want,” answered a 4-year-old at the Branford Early Learning Center.
“I made a bunny,” he said.
Youngsters will not only be creating outside the box, they will be inside, over, around and upside-down. Those boxes will become whatever a child can imagine thanks to the book “Not a Box,” which was chosen for this year’s One Book, One Town event in Branford.
Towns across the country typically celebrate some type of One Book One Town event to promote community and literacy.
Members of the Branford Early Childhood Collaborative (BECC) Monday began the process of distributing 1,245 copies of “Not a Box,” written by Antoinette Portis, to youngsters from pre-school to second grade at 14 locations including day care facilities, pre-schools and Branford elementary schools.
The deliveries began early Monday at the Branford Early Learning Center at the former Pine Orchard School on Birch Road.
“This is basically the launch of the Week of the Young Child, and One Book One Town,“ said Jodi Kelly, executive director of BECC. “The idea about the Week of the Young Child is to engage the family.”
Robin Comey, vice-chair of the BECC, explained the importance of the literacy event. “It’s an opportunity for everyone in the community to read the same book,” said Comey, who selected “Not a Box” for Branford families to read. “It’s a book about creativity and imagination.”
“This is great for us,” said Beryl Meiner, director of the Branford Early Learning Center. “Any opportunity we have to put a book in a child’s hands for them to take home, it’s a wonderful thing,” she said. “We are very literacy focused from the littlest ones on. We read to them constantly and they do art projects based on the books.” (pictured Comey, Meiner and Kelly)
Kelly and Comey were joined on their book-giving adventure Monday by Nester Berrios, a Comcast business tech. Funds to purchase the books were donated by Comcast, Eastshore Region Adult and Continuing Education (ERASE), United Way of Greater New Haven and the Branford Rotary. Berrios is pictured below handing out books.
The children were happy to receive the books, which tell the story of a rabbit who uses his imagination to show that a box is not a box when it becomes a rocket, or a race car or a pirate ship.
Some children already made boxes into special creations. “It’s a robot…. It’s a guitar… It’s a boat… It’s a farm,” the children announce as they hold their boxes.
During the afternoon, Superintendent Hamlet Hernandez and Paul Dzialo, ERASE director, joined the BECC to distribute books at the Indian Neck School Family Resource center on Melrose Avenue. Hernandez read to a pre-kindergarten class from Sliney Elementary School that is housed at the Indian Neck school.
“Our literacy celebration, One Book One Town, is a great opportunity for us to engage families to be an active part of their children’s early learning,” Comey said. “Parents are a child’s first teacher and the earlier we introduce literacy to our children the better. We know that reading to a child for 15 minutes a day from birth, will give the child the literacy skills they need to be a more proficient student and be more successful throughout life.”
The Week of the Young Child is an annual event sponsored by the National Association for the Education of Young Children to bring attention to the needs of young children and their families. It is celebrated nationally April 14 - 20, which coincides with spring recess in the Branford School District. So, the BECC decided to begin the celebration by giving out the books this week, and to hold the main events on Saturday, April 27.
“We’ll do a big celebration,” Comey said. “We’re going to all come together on the Branford Green on that day and everyone will bring their boxes and what they’ve made from them. ”
A variety of events are planned for April 27.
—Registration will begin at 9 a.m. on the Branford Green for the 10th annual Shoreline Walkathon to raise money for the Community Dining Room. The three-mile walk begins at 10 a.m.
—From noon to 3 p.m., families will gather on the green to display their box creations and to construct a replica of the town of Branford out of cardboard boxes.
—At 3 p.m., there will be a Preschool Art Walk where families can view the youngsters’ art work which is displayed in the windows of Downtown Merchants Association.
—Musical entertainment will be provided by Starving Artists Tackle Broadway.
The BECC is a collaborative entity working with key partners to promote the health, safety and education of young children. Their mission is “to ensure that all Branford children, birth through age eight years, are happy, healthy, safe and successful, with a love of learning in school and in life.”
Some of their partners are the United Way of Greater New Haven, the Town of Branford, East Shore District Health Department, the Branford Recreation Department, the Branford Counseling Center, the Blackstone Memorial Library, ERACE, the Family Resource Center, Branford Public Schools, and Read to Grow.
Click here to read a previous story.
BECC’s membership is comprised of leaders from the town, community organizations, public and private schools, the health care community, businesses and families who are dedicated to the well-being of Branford’s children.
BECC is funded through a partnership grant from the William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund; the State Department of Education; and the Children’s Fund of Connecticut.
For more information about the BECC, see their Web site.