Yesterday, I attended a parent’s open house at a local elementary school. The Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO) gave a free new book to every student who attended. I asked the parent manning the book table where the books came from. He told me they earned some through their Scholastic sales and others were purchased with a financial donation by a local non-profit.
I said, “You know lots of kids don’t own even one book.”
“I’m serious,” I continued. “If you go into some homes there are no books, no bookshelves.”
The teenager standing beside him nodded. The parent just stared at me.
I finished with, “This is a great thing you’re doing. I love it.”
In our literary world, we see books everywhere we look – partly because we’re looking for them, partly because we notice the things that are important to us. But for many, books continue to be a novelty. Even in our privileged country.
This is truth. Some people who live in this country who have enough to eat and a roof over their head do not own a book. I’ve been inside houses that had shelves only for pictures and knick-knacks. Plus, the requisite really big TV. On the other hand, I’ve seen more than one homeless person reading a book outside and in a library. Apparently, money is not the issue.
Results from the data from the few studies out there indicate that children who own their own books (even just ONE) are more likely to read more in general. And readers (the data points indicate) lead in academic achievement and economic wealth. These are sweeping generalizations but show me the contrary evidence.
Just because we love books, we give books as gifts, we write books, does not mean that the war against illiteracy and general social, scientific, and historical ignorance has been won.
Even in my middle-sized, westernized American town.
Fight the good fight, my word people. It’s worth our efforts. It’s our future.
How do you fight illiteracy? I’d love to hear your comments, experiences, and ideas!
Note: For more information, please look into the National Literacy Trust study of 2011 by Christina Clark and Lizzie Poulton. The study was performed in the UK, but the results are easily generalizable to the US and other industrialized countries.