IN THE LATE 1990s
Andrew had learned to read in the first grade. He loved visits to the library and the book store and carried books everywhere he went. Books connected him to ideas and to other people, who discussed dinosaurs, thunderstorms, and their favorite characters with him. Just before Andrew reached the sixth grade, he stopped reading books. SMART Parties were created by his mom to encourage him and to breathe new life into the books he had once loved. Andrew, who has Down’s syndrome, was motivated by the informal social atmosphere, so the parties succeeded at
rekindling his love of books and reading. At SMART Parties, classic party touches such as balloons and bubbles, snacks and games, were combined with mystery boxes wrapped like presents, science and math experiments, and books. Parents and children read aloud with karaoke machines and acted out stories while using simple props in a theatrical style, but without a stage or an audience. Everyone was a participant. Hundreds of people attended the SMART Parties in the Turner home over the first several years. Parents noticed the benefits for their children and kept the parties going. When SMART Family Literacy formed as a charity, Andrew volunteered to carry and deliver books. The reading circle was complete when Andrew himself read to preschoolers and gave them books to keep.
A nonprofit charitable organization was formed, as a 501(c)(3), and volunteers reached out to schools and community centers with a pilot reading program model. Volunteers visited South Africa to learn about African folk tales and to give books to children who were victims of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
SMART Parties were modified to fit a school classroom. Reading programs were presented at Odyssey Academy and the Family Crisis Center in Galveston, Texas . The first literacy fair took place on International Literacy Day, which takes place on September 8th. In the fall, the first grants were received from the Harris & Eliza Kempner Fund, the Dr. Leon Bromberg Charitable Trust Fund, and the Permanent Endowment Fund of Moody Methodist Church.
In spring 2006, the first garden literacy programs were presented at L.A. Morgan Elementary. An early childhood curriculum with an emphasis on gardens began. Books were often presented in both English and Spanish.
The first Latin American SMART Party was presented and books were given to children at the Margarita Duran school in Santa Tecla, El Salvador.
SMART presented the first of more than one dozen workshops or mini-conferences (spanning the next five years). Workshops included professional development for early childhood educators and parent education.
On September 13th, Hurricane Ike struck Galveston, devastating the island city. The severe damage touched homes of SMART volunteers, local schools, and the Rosenberg Library Children's Department. Fortunately, the storage unit where SMART's inventory was stored escaped damage and more than 4,000 books were waiting to be given to children in need following the disaster.
SMART provided professional development sessions at conferences for the Science Teachers Association of Texas, the Houston Association for Education of Young Children, and the Texas Association for Education of Young Children. Volunteers from Texas A&M University at Galveston played a key role in keeping reading programs going through the difficulties of the aftermath.
The SMART logo was designed by Sydney Greenwalt.
The website was upgraded and put into wider use for communicating with volunteers.
Facebook and Pinterest became important methods for interacting with volunteers and others interested in SMART Family Literacy.
SMART partnered with the Stanford University Alumni Association to present the first "Read and Seed Day".
The first satellite program began in Houston via a student organization at Houston School for Performing and Visual Arts (HSPVA).
SMART created a book arts event called Galveston Art Bound, which debuted in the fall. Art Bound emphasized repurposing obsolete or damaged books to create new art. The book art pieces were auctioned and the proceeds were used to support SMART Family Literacy.
In 2012, SMART gave 7,431 children's books to young children and families.
In 2013, SMART volunteers gave 6,001 new high quality books to young children and families, most during interactive reading programs in classrooms. SMART provided eleven parent and family literacy events (SMART Parties) during the 2012-13 school year.
In the 10th year, SMART continued to provide interactive bilingual (English and Spanish) reading programs and book giving through the efforts of dedicated volunteers. SMART partnered with a local farmers market to provide a monthly activity tent for kids. Topics are focused on vegetable literacy and nutrition education. SMART made plans for new projects, which included the production of the first parent education video about making giant bubbles and a new website design, which included our first pages written in Spanish.