Raising a Reader Aspen to Parachute is a nonprofit organization serving the Roaring Fork Valley that provides preschool and kindergarten students with entertaining, educational, and engaging books to read at home, thus building important parent-child bonds. Suzanne Wheeler-Del Piccolo has been the Executive Director at Raising a Reader Aspen to Parachute for over a year. She was drawn to the position due to her 17 years of experience collaborating with Raising a Reader as the principal at Basalt Elementary School. In a recent interview with Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation, she shared her insights into what makes Raising a Reader an important program for the community’s children and families.
“What I like most about Raising a Reader is its value to the community’s children and families and the strength of its staff and board,” says Wheeler-Del Piccolo. The program has been committed to families, schools, libraries, and other community partners since its inception in 2003. The program supports over 1,300 children and their parents in a typical year through various programs, including library and school-based programs. Its Bolsitas Rojas program is a signature program that sends books home with kids to help build parent-child bonds through reading together. One of the organization’s primary goals is to share the love and joy of parents and children reading at home, which creates some of the most special memories and moments that children and parents share in those early years.
Raising a Reader’s bilingual and long-time staff is one of its greatest assets. Two staff were honored in 2021 as nominees for the Garfield County Humanitarian award. “The staff is passionate, professional, kind, and driven to ensure that all families implement the critical reading routine at home together,” commented Wheeler-Del Piccolo.
In addition to its literacy outreach programs, Raising a Reader has partnered with Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation to provide oral health education to the families they serve. “We know from research that 30% of children begin kindergarten with cavities. We see a partnership between literacy and oral hygiene education as a win-win for the families we serve,” explains Wheeler-Del Piccolo. The new literacy-based program element focuses on oral health and its tie to overall health.
The program recently purchased 700 copies of the book “Dentista, Dentist” to give to all children participating in their programs, along with fun parent-child engagement ideas in Spanish and English to support routine reading at home and preventative oral health care. Each child will also receive an age-appropriate toothbrush and toothpaste in a little “tooth” bag.
“We are very grateful for our partnership with Delta Dental and the opportunity to highlight dental health for many young children in our region,” says Wheeler-Del Piccolo.
Click here to read more about Raising a Reader Aspen to Parachute’s grant with Delta Dental of Colorado Foundation that was recently featured in the Aspen Daily News.