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Tonia Burton became the children’s services consultant at the Central Library in 2011, and almost immediately began working on the Library’s participation in the national ‘Raising a Reader’ program — which she then launched at Central in Fall 2012.
“Tonia has focused attention on family literacy as the vehicle to move children and their families out of poverty,” says Rochester Public Library and Monroe County Library System Director Patricia Uttaro.
Raising a Reader (RAR) is a data-driven, national family reading program which provides weekly bags of books to parents of children zero to five. The program at Central serves hundreds of families. “The RAR model takes place in the community, not just the library,” Tonia says.
Library staff members routinely go to preschools, home day cares, and elementary schools to rotate the reader bags, conduct a story time, offer parent engagement workshops, and more.
“In the last five years, the Children’s Center [outreach has gone] from 132 visits serving 1,961 patrons to 685 visits serving 10,857 patrons,” she says. “RAR gives parents/caregivers the opportunity to change the culture of reading in their home and transform their lives.”
For her work with ‘Raising a Reader’ as well as many other outreach programs, Tonia was also awarded the Library Journal’s ‘Movers & Shakers’ 2019 – Community Builders Award.