Gerald Fanion IV age three years old LOVES books, often snuggling them as he sleeps each night. His mother, Dr. Sha Fanion, a former elementary school principal and current educational leadership coach, is passionate about literacy. Dr. Fanion read to Gerald in utero and she and her husband have not stopped reading to him since he was born! In fact, she immediately signed Gerald up to receive books from Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library through Porter-Leath’s Books from Birth program.
“One of my favorite quotes is ‘Students become readers on the laps of their parents.’ The more you expose children to books, the more they will gravitate towards books … The love of reading starts at home” she said. Gerald Fanion III also helps to develop his son’s love for reading. He checks the mail each day and when the monthly book arrives, Mr. Fanion announces it as he enters the house. This gesture signals to his son that reading and books are something that should spark excitement. The Fanions encourage Gerald IV to wait until bedtime to open his newest book, further building their son’s anticipation to open the new story.
The Fanions also spread their love of literacy with others. When Dr. Fanion was pregnant with Gerald, she asked for books as her baby shower gifts. As she read with Gerald, she would often post a picture on Facebook of what they were reading. So many people began asking about the books and what titles Dr. Fanion recommended that she created an Instagram account to share Gerald’s reading journey. Today, @geraldivlovesbooks, has over 2,200 followers and is a great way to share new and interesting books with other families. His Books from Birth selections are included in his library’s rotation of featured titles!
Dr. Fanion encourages parents to enroll their children in Books from Birth, citing the accessibility and quality as major benefits for parents. She explained that literacy skills can build vocabulary, writing, language and critical thinking skills, so it is foundational to students’ confidence and success. “The lack of access to books is a huge equity issue … this program is a great way to help bridge that gap,” she said. Dr. Fanion added “Whether you can afford to buy books or not, they are coming every month … if you can sign up, absolutely do it.”