2019 Literacy Hero: Ann Johnston
Each and every day, ordinary people do extraordinary things to promote literacy in our communities. With these awards, we celebrate the selfless acts of three regional heroes who champion the cause of literacy in San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties.
Ann Johnston of Stockton was recently honored by the leaders of the Great Valley Bookfest, who presented her with their Literacy Hero Award.
Johnston, a Stockton businesswoman, is very active in her community. From 2009 until 2013, she served as the city’s mayor.
In 2011, during her tenure as mayor, Johnston began gathering financial support from local service clubs, public agencies, and private companies to launch the “Read to Me, Stockton!” program, an early-childhood literacy program that conducts parent workshops and sends a free book each month to registered infants, toddlers, and preschool children.
Working with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, Read to Me, Stockton! purchases top-quality children’s books at just $2.00 each and has them mailed to local children.
Children under the age of five are eligible to be in the program. Once enrolled, the child receives a free book in the mail every month. The high-quality, age-appropriate books are addressed to the child and delivered to them by the Dollywood Foundation. There is no cost or income restriction for families who wish to participate.
Johnston serves as both the program administrator and the president of the nonprofit organization. Her genuine concern and her leadership abilities have been vital to the program’s success.
Over the years, Johnston has doggedly pursued funding to expand this early literacy program. At the start, the organization was able to send books to children in only two zip code zones, but in 2018, due in part to Johnson’s persistent efforts, Read to Me, Stockton! secured enough funding to register children in all eight of the major zip codes in her community.
Since 2011, more than 300,000 books have been mailed to more than 15,000 children in Stockton.
Johnston has also forged partnerships with public schools and libraries to provide meetings and training sessions with parents to encourage them and help them to read to their children.
“Research has shown that the two most important factors contributing to a child’s success in school are reading aloud and parental involvement,” says Johnston. “It has been proven that the more books there are in a home, the more grades a child will complete in school. Too many young children don’t have books at home, so this program is a great way to get them started.”
“The Bookfest leadership team was impressed and inspired by the investment Ms. Johnston has made in the lives of local children,” commented Melissa King, who chairs the award committee. “It is our great pleasure to recognize her among our region’s Literacy Heroes.”
To learn more about Read to Me, Stockton!, or to sign up, go to www.readtomestockton.org