BELOIT - Inspiring parents and children to read together from an early age is what Team Mosaic wanted to accomplish with its book "All Because You Read to Me."
The book was created by a team from the Leadership Development Academy of Rock County, class of 2017-2018, and distributed earlier this month. The Mosaic Team is comprised of Colleen Curtis Trappe, of Blackhawk Community Credit Union; Sara Helgeson, of the City of Janesville Recreation Division; William Chatman, of Community Action; Heather Dobson, of Corporate Contractors Inc.; Bryan C. Whitehead, of Nowlan & Mouat LLP; and Roderick Brunton IV, of the Town of Beloit Fire Department.
There were six different academy groups this year, all of which partnered with different organizations to address a need within the community.
Team Mosaic decided to partner with Family Services of Southern Wisconsin and Northern Illinois to focus on early literacy.
"Telling a message to the adult on why it's important kids read was where we wanted to focus our energy," Dobson said.
Alyssa Whitney, Family Services' program development director, praised Team Mosaic for their efforts.
"Access to books is one thing, but getting parents to understand the importance of reading at a young age...is what everyone is focusing on," Whitney said.
Whitney said from birth and 3 years of age is when a child's brain is at the most crucial time for development, when toddlers start picking up language and connections.
"If the reading doesn't occur, the kids will be so much farther behind their peers when they get to kindergarten," Whitney said.
None of the team members had ever written a book before this project, but by using their different skills, they were able to make it work. Whitehead wrote the story. The team then had St. William Catholic School students Carter Herbst and Olivia Mauritz illustrate the book, which details all of the future career possibilities children have when they read.
"Our hope is that the book is that spark that keeps them engaged reading with children and engaging with not just their children but the children in their lives," Dobson said.
The team then worked with brand design agency Thysse to publish 4,000 copies of the book, which were distributed to Family Services and various other organizations, including the Beloit Public Library.
Whitney said Family Services has distrusted the books to many of their programs to make sure it's widely received. The books also will be placed in their Little Free Libraries across the city.
"When technology is so prevalent, reading can offer kids an escape, and we're trying to get kids to use their imagination as well," Trappe said.
Helgeson adds the book is bilingual in both Spanish and English, and there's also QR codes offering read alongs on the back of the book.
Team Mosaic started the Leadership Development Academy in August and decided on the literacy book as their project in January.
"I think we're all very proud of the product we created," Dobson said. "It was a process coming up with this, and we're pleased with feedback and excitement we've gotten from the community."
Whitney is grateful for the work of Team Mosaic.
"(The book) shows we're trying to get at the core issues that families are facing," Whitney said. "This is just one more example of the community coming together."