Allen said at a D.C. Council hearing on his “Books From Birth” bill today that the program will have a dedicated funding stream that won’t pull from the D.C. Public Library budget.
“This is something we need to do and that we need to fund,” Allen said. “I’ll be fighting to make sure we have additional resources to make this successful.”
“We know that this is a program we can raise private funds for,” DCPL Executive Director Richard Reyes-Gavilan said.
“If you can’t raise money for a program like Books from Birth, you should probably hang it up,” he added, to laughter.
For hours this afternoon, education experts spoke before the Council committee on education about the “word gap” between children in high-income and low-income families, and the value of every child having access to books.
Susan Haight, president of the Federation of Friends of the D.C. Public Library, spoke in favor of Books From Birth as long as it is correctly funded.
“We want to make sure the funds needed for this project are sourced from outside DCPL,” she said. “We support this legislation if properly and not competitively funded.”
More than 40,700 children under age 5 live in the District, according to a 2013 Census Bureau estimate. With the program estimated by Allen’s office to cost $30 per child per year, that brings the initiative’s price tag to roughly $1.2 million a year.