Thursday night's Books & Vines benefit was a huge success in raising awareness and money for the Children's Reading Foundation.
Brian Ace, executive director of the foundation, said the event netted more than $50,000. "Netted" might be a misnomer, because sponsors picked up the costs for the evening, held at Bookwalter Winery.
The Children's Reading Foundation of the Mid-Columbia is the first in the United States. Its founder is Kennewick educator Nancy Kerr.
Now she's established a national organization, and reading foundation affiliates are popping up all over the nation. Marc Harden, past director of the local Reading Foundation, is in the Southeast right now helping set up four more.
Thursday's event was to raise money to support local programs that encourage little ones to read, and parents and caregivers to read to them. The local foundation also runs Ready for Kindergarten, Team Read and parent classes for Babies Can't Wait.
The foundation gives out thousands of books and has a reading program and a bus to keep children reading over the summer.
These programs are important because millions of the nation's children enter school unprepared to learn and by the fourth grade are still unable to read on grade level.
Nationally, more than 80 percent of children from low-income families fail to reach grade-level reading skills.
Our community is deeply involved in pursuing and helping achieve the foundation's goals.
For example, the Volunteer Center's annual drive, supported by service clubs and individuals, contributes nearly 200,000 school supply items, which help more than 25,000 students in Benton and Franklin counties who cannot afford basic school supplies.
Now, strong attendance and financial support at Books & Vines shows that the community truly cares about all its children.
That's something to celebrate as we begin a new school year.