Community Impact Education Pathway Faces of Success: Anthony Campos
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Faces of Success: Anthony Campos

The old family photo album has been replaced. Polaroid cameras are out and cell phones with massive amounts of storage space are in. Like most parents, Mylinh Campos has hundreds of pictures of her son Anthony stored on her phone. They capture the moments of his first seven months of life and also his early love for books.

“I’ve been trying to start him young by reading to him,” said Campos. “He seems really fascinated and looks at the books like he understands what I am reading.”

Ever since she was a young girl, Campos has loved reading books. She received a brochure about the Imagination Library of Middle Tennessee program shortly after Anthony was born. The program provides one book per month to children from birth to age five in Williamson, Davidson and Sumner Counties at no cost to families, regardless of income. Campos enrolled Anthony in the Imagination Library of Middle Tennessee and watched her son’s library grow and educational development flourish.

“When I am reading to him, I point to the pictures and he looks down and I feel like he understands a little bit more each and every time we read together,” she said. “We go through the pictures and then I read the words. He sits there very quietly and he watches everything and listens to me and looks at the pictures.”

There are more than 35,000 similar success stories involving the Imagination Library of Middle Tennessee program over the years. Last year, the program mailed more than 396,000 books to local children enrolled. If a child is enrolled in the program from birth until their fifth birthday, they will receive 60 high quality, age-appropriate books. These books provide a sense of ownership and also build literacy skills.

Research shows that children who are read to regularly at home hear twice as many words every year and have 1/3 larger vocabulary by age three than children who are not read to at home. This is important because children who have not developed basic literacy skills by the time they enter school are 3 - 4 times more likely to drop out in later years.

“I just love the fact that he is so interested in all these books,” said Campos. “What United Way’s Imagination Library is doing is very admirable and very generous. I can’t say enough positive things about it; I think it’s great. I encourage every parent to enroll their child in this program.”

2015 marks the 10 year anniversary of the Imagination Library of Middle Tennessee program. In September, Campos read an email about United Way of Metropolitan Nashville’s Imagination Library Instagram Contest. The contest was designed to celebrate the program’s longevity in Middle Tennessee and also feature some of the children who have benefited from enrollment. Campos knew it was time to capitalize on her son’s fashion sense and his love for Imagination Library books.

“He has quite a different collection of hats,” she said. “This is his look and his style. I started taking pictures and he sat there like he was reading. It was cute, so I submitted the pictures.”

The image of Anthony wearing a plaid, button-down shirt and newsboy hat, reading “The Little Engine That Could” — helped him edge out 56 other contestants and cemented his place in Imagination Library Instagram Contest history. “I was proud he won; he looked like he was reading and the hat also had a lot to do with it,” said Campos. “As he gets older, I hope the picture helps him realize that he started reading at a young age and it’s something he’s always enjoyed.”

Anthony won a $50 gift card to be used for books. His family also received two tickets to the 2015 Reading Roundup Fundraiser Shindig, benefiting the Imagination Library of Middle Tennessee, as well as a large form display featuring his winning image. The accomplishment brought a smile to his mom’s face.

The Campos family should have plenty of other great photo opportunities for Anthony and his growing collection of Imagination Library books in the future. While mom might run out of storage space in her digital photo album, she’ll always remember the Instagram winning image of Anthony sitting, smiling and reading his first Imagination Library book. It’s a picture-perfect memory for Mylinh Campos.

To learn more about United Way's Education programs, click here.
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