More than 300 kids benefit from early reading program

- Manatee County's Raising a Reader program is helping families become closer while also making children better readers. 

Five-year-old Cassidy Haney is always excited about reading with her mom, Megan.

They are reading together thanks to the Early Learning Coalition - a home-based literacy program aimed at getting kids to read early while building bonds between parents and children.

Each week, children are given four books to take home and read.

"Cassidy is always excited when she comes home with a new book. The first thing she wants to do is sit down and read it," Megan said. "You see her growing and developing but you also get that one-on-one time to sit there and cuddle and enjoy one another."

The free initiative started in Manatee County five years ago. So far, more than 300 families have benefited from the program.

"This gives parents a time each week to just sit down take some time with their children and read a good book," explained Anna Marie Carleton, who runs the program.

There are currently 10 learning centers using the program. 

Pam Lewis uses the plan in her role as the director of Palma Sola Early Learning Center.

"Our kids rate very, very well when they leave us and go into either private or public school," Lewis explained.

The year-round program is bringing families together and helping children reach their full potential.

For more information on the program, visit

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