People in Preservation: Raising A Reader’s Christine Ward

People in Preservation: Raising A Reader’s Christine Ward

HBI spoke with Christine Ward, Executive Director of Raising A Reader MA, a 501©3 organization based in Boston. RAR-MA is devoted to introducing children to books and reading from a young age as a critical step in beginning their education. Last winter, RAR-MA moved into an office space in the Landmark Old Corner Bookstore building and has turned the space into their headquarters for Massachusetts.  This is the second part of our “People in Preservation” series that profiles the people that benefit from living or working in HBI’s preservation projects.   

Among the ranks of cigar emporia, tailor shops, and fast-casual cuisine Raising A Reader Massachusetts (RAR-MA) takes a fitting place in the second floor of the venerable Old Corner Bookstore, once home to the famed Ticknor and Fields publishing firm. “We love telling people our address because of School Street and the Old Corner Bookstore”, said Christine Ward, Executive Director of Raising A Reader MA. “It fits into everything we do with literacy and the kids.”

Christine described RAR’s new office space:  “This office is our headquarters. We moved locally from Park Street. This is a good space for us because we are watching every dollar, and that is easier to do in a historic building more than in a modern office building. I used to come to the bookstore here when I was a kid. And now I work here and can hear the tour guides, the trolley, and duck boats going by every day. There is a whole mural of bookshelves on the wall in the stairwell devoted to Ticknor and Fields’ publishing house. The fact that this is called the Old Corner Bookstore is also a nice complement to what we do.”

 Christine has worked with the organization for 10 years, most recently as the Vice President of Finance and Operations, and now as the organization’s Executive Director. “What I love about Raising A Reader is how it empowers parents to understand the value of reading and how they can serve as their child’s first teacher, regardless of their language or literacy skills.” Their Parent Ambassador Program champions bilingual parents who have been through the Raising A Reader program, and connects them with new families to welcome them to experience the services that Raising A Reader has to offer, in their own language.

The at-home reading techniques are just one of many services that Raising A Reader provides. Serving a predominantly urban population, access to books has become a central need for urban communities. In low-income neighborhoods, there is statistically one book for every 300 children as compared to 13 books for every child in a middle-income setting. “We have the opportunity to level the playing field and encourage a literacy-rich environment for families,” said Ward. “We teach the importance of reading aloud, dialogic reading, and teaching techniques like asking open-ended questions to get the child to start thinking and making connections from books to their own lives.”

With partners at public pre-kindergarten and Head Start programs for example, Raising A Reader provides high-quality, age appropriate and culturally relevant reading material for children to take home four books a week, which creates a rotating library to expose children to as many new words and ideas as possible. A mix of old favorites and new titles, children can read The Hungry Caterpillar, often in their home language, and get it again in English with another book bag. Christine emphasizes that this exposure is central to showing children that there are people just like them and there are also people that are different. Their Red Book Bag Program aims to address the literacy opportunity gap by making sure that all children enter kindergarten on an equal playing field, so when a child walks into class, teachers have students that knows how to handle a book, listen, and ask questions for a lifetime of opportunity.

Historic Boston welcomes Raising A Reader to the Old Corner Bookstore.

Interested in this great organization? Support and Donate to Raising A Reader MA