As we begin our second year of operation in Muscogee County, on behalf of our local volunteer team of Jenny Badcock, Janet Baker, Michelle Crawford-McKay, Jo Ann Levels Taylor, Jonathan Longtin, Lyn Seaman and Jackie Titus, I feel it is appropriate to share our "Annual Report" with the community.
Ferst Foundation for Childhood Literacy is a statewide literacy non-profit organization which mails books into the homes of children in Georgia, from birth to the age of five, on a monthly basis, at no cost to the families. Ferst Foundation was started in 2000 and has mailed more than 3.2 million books since its founding. Ferst operates by county, and the Muscogee County Chapter was just formed in February of 2012.
In our first year of operation we registered more than 2,000 of the approximately 14,000 children in Muscogee County who are under age 5. It costs $28 per year per child to provide these 12 free books. To continue to support the 2,000 children we have registered, it will cost $56,000 per year.
Fortunately, as has been demonstrated time and again, we have a very generous and supportive community who will contribute to causes that serve a measurable need in our community. To date, we have raised enough money to continue to provide books to 2,000 children through 2013, and into 2014.
But our goal is to support one-half of the children under 5 years old in Columbus. To be able to achieve that goal, we will need broader support for our mission than from the early supporters of our cause. Many statistical studies document the critical importance of providing children with early literacy skills, even before they begin pre-school. Seventy-five percent of children who start first grade behind in their reading ability never catch up and will remain poor readers in high school. Two out of three students who score below reading level in the 4th grade end up in jail or on welfare.
More than 60 percent of-low income families have no suitable reading materials for children in their homes. Ferst Foundation cannot solve all of the problems associated with poor educational attainment of our children, but we can solve one -- having suitable books in the home for children. Counties that have had the Ferst program in place find their children excel on standardized reading tests like the Kindergarten Readiness Assessment and the CRCT. To learn more about Ferst Foundation's successes, the literacy needs of our youngest citizens, and the impact of not developing these reading skills early enough, visit our website, www.ferstfoundation.org.
We'd like to thank our many foundation and corporate sponsors from 2012: Bradley-Turner Foundation, John and Dorothy Illges Foundation, Columbus Regional Medical Foundation, Aflac, Synovus, Georgia Power, Amos-Cheves Foundation, Clubview Elementary PTA, and University of Phoenix. We'd also like to thank our partners who assisted our mission with in-kind support: Chattahoochee Valley Library System, Columbus State University's Department of Communication and College of Education and Health Professions, The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, WTVM Channel 9, and Target Stores.
A monthly parent newsletter, sponsored by Stroller Strong Moms, Baby & Beyond and Chik-fil-A, accompanies the books and provides the parents a reading guide to help encourage reading with their children. And we'd like to thank our many individual sponsors, who donated from $28 to more than $3,000 to sponsor children for free books in our community. There are too many to list.
We couldn't have accomplished these successes of our first year without the support of those who registered children for our books: the Medical Center's and Doctors Hospital's birth certificate registrars; the staff at Regional Pediatrics, operated by Dr. David Flowers and Dr. April Hartman; CareWell Pediatrics, operated by Dr. Lirio Palmos; the Chattahoochee Valley Library System's Simple Steps Outreach program; and the Head Start staff here in Columbus, coordinated by Beverly Woods.
While our goal of providing books to 7,000 children, at a cost of $196,000 per year, may sound challenging, there are more than 85,000 employed adults in the Columbus market. If one in 10 of our working adults donated $28 to provide a year of books to one child, we could provide books to 8,500 children oevery year. Explained like that, we think our goal is very attainable. If you'd like to be one of the 10% who can help us reach our goal, donations can be made through the Ferst website, or to P.O. Box 4605, Columbus, GA 31914.
Warren Steele, a retired Aflac executive, is a Ferst Foundation volunteer and sponsor.