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December 7, 2011

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Lauren Kidd

DCF Commissioner Allison Blake volunteers to read to children as part of New Jersey’s “Season of Service”

Trenton program helps develop children’s literacy skills and strengthens parent-child interaction


TRENTON – As part of the Christie Administration’s “Season of Service” initiative, Department of Children and Families (DCF) Commissioner Allison Blake volunteered to read to children Monday during the Fun with Books and Music Family Celebration at the Children’s Home Society of New Jersey’s (CHS of NJ) South Ward Family Success Center in Trenton.

The “Season of Service” was announced by Governor and First Lady Christie on Thanksgiving Eve. The initiative builds on the same commitment to community the Governor emphasized in his 2010 inaugural address with members of the cabinet volunteering their time in a variety of ways over the next month.

Research has shown that developing the reading skills of children early on can significantly impact their success rate in life.  “Reading can create so many memorable positive moments between a parent and child,” said Commissioner Blake.  “Not only does reading together increase learning opportunities for everyone, but it also helps foster parent-child bonding, an attribute critical to a child’s life long well-being. Reading is one of many ways we can give back to children and families.”

Fun with Books and Music is a nine?week interactive family literacy program with cycles in English and Spanish, offered by CHS of NJ to Trenton area families with at least one child under seven years old. The program has successfully impacted over 700 families since its inception in 1994. The celebration where Commissioner Blake read on Monday reunited 35 families who completed the program. Sixty?five children ages 1 month to 13 years and their parents spent the evening reading holiday stories, singing together, doing crafts, enjoying a warm meal and a visit with Santa thanks to the efforts of volunteers from GE Healthcare and a special volunteer visit by Commissioner Blake. GE Healthcare is a committed sponsor of the Fun with Books and Music program and the children of CHS of NJ. Throughout the year, GE Volunteer Foundation provides funding for this critical pre-literacy program, and hosts an annual reunion for participating families. In addition to its work with Fun with Books and Music, the GE Healthcare volunteers collect new coats and other necessities for children of CHS of NJ throughout the year.

“During the holiday season, each of us, no matter how busy we are, can use our caring, time and energy through volunteerism to create a happy few hours that these children and families will not forget,” said CHS of NJ President and CEO Donna Pressma.

The South Ward Family Success Center (FSC) in Trenton, where the celebration was held, is one of a network of 38 state funded centers located throughout New Jersey established to empower and support children and families and equip them with the tools to be self-sufficient.  In addition, the centers promote parent leadership by encouraging them to become engaged and advocates in their communities with the knowledge that they know best the needs of their respective communities.

For more information about DCF’s prevention programs and services, visit the DCF Web Site at:

The Children’s Home Society of NJ is currently conducting enrollment for the 2012 program. For more information on enrollment, sponsorship or volunteering, please call 609-695-6274 or visit

The Department of Children and Families (DCF), New Jersey’s state child welfare agency, was created in July 2006 as the state’s first Cabinet agency devoted exclusively to serving and safeguarding the most vulnerable children and families in New Jersey. DCF includes the Division of Youth and Family Services, Division of Prevention and Community Partnerships and Division of Child Behavioral Health Services, and is focused on strengthening families and achieving safety, well-being and permanency for New Jersey's children.