Thursday, December 17, 2009

An Open Book

We're a book family. There are shelves of books in every room, books crammed in every cubby, books wedged in random pieces of furniture.

When we had Noise, one of our showers was a Book Shower-- each participant purchased and inscribed a book for our new baby. (Hello, eight copies of "Love You Forever!")

By having many books in our home, and by reading to and around our children, we have been pretty successful in cultivating in them a love of reading. They love to read, to be read to, and to just enjoy books.

Because of their love of books and reading, the world will open up for them. Information will be accessible for them to achieve their dreams. Stories beyond their own imaginations will be available for their enjoyment. Reading is a phenomenal skill that can determine the whole of a person's success.

Teaching a child to read is so, so important. And having books around is fundamental to that teaching.

But did you know that many lower-income children live in households where there are few or no books that are age appropriate?
61 percent of low-income families have no books at all in their homes for their children. While low-income children have--on average--roughly four children's books in their homes, a team of researchers recently concluded that nearly two thirds of the low-income families they studied owned no books for their children.
Studies show that when children do not have access to age-appropriate reading materials in their home, it affects their literacy.
The single most significant factor influencing a child’s early educational success is an introduction to books and being read to at home prior to beginning school.
And when literacy is diminished, the lifelong effects can be devastating.
70% of mothers on welfare have reading skills in the lowest two proficiency levels.
One-half of all adults in federal and state correctional institutions cannot read or write at all.

Books are something that many of us, including myself, take for granted. There were books in
my home growing up, and a high value placed on reading. It never occurred to me that this was not how everyone lived.

In the spirit of the holidays, I wanted to bring to your attention two national organizations that exist to combat this problem, First Book and Reading is Fundamental. These progams take donations of time and money, and turn them into books in the hands of low-income families. It is a simple yet incredibly effective way to improve literacy-- just bringing books into homes.

If a monetary donation isn't possible for you, consider looking into local book donation programs. Your library is probably aware of the easiest way to get involved. Even something as simple as taking your spare copies of "Goodnight Moon," "Where the Sidewalk Ends," and "Cat in the Hat" to a local lower-income children's program can be a step in a great direction.

What a fantastic gift-- to contribute to someone's literacy. In the words of Eddie from National Lampoon's Christmas, "That's the gift that keeps on giving, Clark."


Jules said...

agreed! The importance of reading to youth is sometimes overlooked, and when those sweet kids hit my high school class? Tragic. It. Is. Tragic.

Thank you for the reminder.

Heather said...

Also, don't forget the Dolly Parton Imagination Library. FREE books for kids, 1 per month from birth through age 5.