The imaginations of children have a limitless splendor that leave many adults longing for the days of fighting pirates in Neverland and skipping down yellow brick roads.
Children’s books have thrilled, inspired and taught children reading skills for generations but with changing technology, books often play understudy to the leading role of Playstations and the Disney Channel. Paul Thiebaut III of Redwood City is devoted to seeing the magic of reading and children’s literacy take back its position in the spotlight.
“When I see a child thrive, when I see a child learn,” Thiebaut said. “It makes me see the potential of every child.”
Thiebaut is the CEO and founder of 10 Books a Home, a nonprofit organization committed to in-home early childhood literacy.
“Success begins at home,” Thiebaut said.
Thiebaut founded 10 Books a Home in 2009 when he realized the benefits of private tutoring but at the same time realized the unforgiving cost of the educational service.
“I wanted to see every child who wouldn’t have the opportunity of a private tutor to have one,” he said.
10 Books a Home now has nearly 40 students throughout East Palo Alto who receive private reading instruction free of charge. Each child begins lessons at 3-4 years old and has weekly sessions every week for a half hour. The average child has 2.5 years of tutoring, equating to 130 private lessons.
These lessons, Thiebaut said, will advance and prepare children’s reading skills before they enter the first grade. According to Thiebaut, upon entering the first grade, students will be six months to 1.5 years above reading level and 100 percent of second and third graders from the program will receive advanced or proficient placing on their STAR tests.
“One of the greatest feelings for me is when I can see the joy in the faces of the kids I teach,” said tutor and 10 Books a Home manager, Tina Jupp.
The volunteer said seeing children develop their reading skills is a personal joy and develops a bond with each child she tutors.
This connection benefits the child immensely, Thiebaut said, because when children feel their tutor is also a role model their learning experience is strengthened.
“They’ll be eager to learn and eager to listen,” Thiebaut said.
Grace Latu, mother of three 10 Books a Home Students, said her children are anxious for their lesson each week.
“They fight over who gets to go first,” she said.
Latu sat with her family at the 10 Books a Home first annual “A Bookcase in Every Home” fundraiser Saturday afternoon in Redwood City. The event raised approximately $15,000. The children of 10 Books a Home were provided with their own bookshelf to decorate and paint to their liking in a garden surrounded by the letters of the alphabets and quotes from famous authors on the importance of children’s literacy.
“It was really cute,” Jupp said. “They were getting really creative with their bookcases.”
Embellished in pink butterflies and vibrant rainbows, the kids of 10 Books a Home festooned nearly 40 bookcases to hold their pending voyages through the tales of Dr. Seuss and Beatrix Potter.
The community sat beneath the shade of a tall tree on the hot summer day to watch a dinosaur puppet show performed by puppeteer Nick Barone. The families and volunteers laughed and cheered as they learned about the extinction of the dinosaurs via a ballad sung by a triceratops.
Latu, now a dedicated supporter of 10 Books a Home, remembers her first encounter with the organization.
“Paul stopped me and told me about 10 Books a Home,” Latu said. “And I just thought, I want that for my children.”
Latu said her son used to stutter, but with 10 Books a Home private tutoring and reading aloud with her son she has found that his stutter has significantly diminished.
The organization also helps Latu to encourage her children’s education in literacy.
“It keeps me on my toes with reading with my kids,” she said.
10 Books a Home requires children to keep reading logs with their children that promotes reading everyday.
“Every child that we work with will develop a love for reading and parents will become proactive,” Thiebaut said. “We want to have parents who play a more active role in their education than they otherwise would.”
Because of the 10 Books a Home reading logs, families have begun reading together, bonding and growing through reading.
As for interested volunteers, Thiebaut said that no teaching experience is required. One must only be over the age of 18, able to give a half hour of their time each week and willing to inspire literacy in a child, Thiebaut said.
“You have to have a big heart and have a vision of the world where you can affect a child’s life,” he said.
Thiebaut hopes to expand 10 Books a Home throughout the United States in order to give every child a foundation to succeed.
“I will work towards that end indefinitely,” he said.
The organization’s great leadership and allegiance to early childhood literacy will continue as long as there are children who can benefit from the written word.
“I believe in all children,” Thiebaut said. “And every child deserves the right to learn.”