It wasn't that she didn't see the value of reading to her young daughters. The problem, Mayra Rodriguez said, was a lack of confidence.
Today, Rodriguez regularly reads to her 4-year-old daughter and noted how quickly the girl picked up on colors and numbers. Soon she'll be reading to her 1-year-old.
The 27-year-old Alhambra resident is a product of Reading is Fundamental of Southern California's WIC Early Childhood & Family Literacy Program, which operates at its centers in Pico Rivera and East Los Angeles.
"It really did give me the confidence to read to my daughters, which is important if I want them to be successful," said Rodriguez, who has been in the WIC nutritional program for nine years.
The literacy program has a two-pronged approach. One focuses on the kids, who often accompany their parents to counseling sessions, said Carol Henault, executive director. There, coordinators read and direct activities related to the subject matter.
The other prong assists parents who face language barriers, lack access to books or are intimidated by reading to their children, Henault said.
"A lot of people assume low-income people don't care, but that couldn't be farther from the truth," Henault said. "In some cases, they grew up in a home where nobody read to them or they don't realize what a boost it is to read to their children."
Last year, the literacy program served 1,568 preschool-age children and 752 parents, Henault said. Most of the kids are 3 years old, and a significant number of them are from Latino and Asian households.
Early childhood literacy gives kids crucial building blocks to help them learn, said Laurie Hill, supervising nutritionist at the East Los Angeles WIC Center. The children, she said, continue to build on those skills through high school.
"It's all about planting seeds and starting somewhere," Hill said. "This is a start, and, just like the nutrition program at WIC, if you start young they'll carry it through."
Hill enjoys reading the feedback from parents on what they learned about their children from the program. One woman said she now believes her daughter "will be successful in life if I read to her." Another parent said she learned that children are often "listening even when we don't think they are."
Through the generosity of Times readers and a match by the McCormick Foundation, nearly $450,000 was granted to local literacy programs this year as a result of the Los Angeles Times Holiday Campaign.
The campaign, part of the Los Angeles Times Family Fund, a McCormick Foundation fund, raises contributions to support established literacy programs run by nonprofit organizations that serve low-income families whose children are reading below grade levels, who are at risk of illiteracy or who have limited English proficiency.
Donations are tax deductible as permitted by law and matched at 50 cents on the dollar.
Donor information is not traded or published without permission.
Donate online at latimes.com/donate or by calling (800) 518-3975. All gifts will receive a written acknowledgment.