By Gabriella van Rij
This piece was originally published on Gabriella van Rij's blog. Check it out here.
I’m curled up with a book, turning the pages as fast as I can…
I can’t wait to read more… The stories in the book transport me to another world.
For one moment, all else is forgotten until I turn the last page and with a big sigh I put the book down.
I think about all the characters who have come alive. I feel like I know them. I feel their pain and laughter through the pages of the book.
I cannot imagine a childhood without books, or even my present life as an adult without the comfort books can bring.
So this blog post is in honor of two special days that occur during the first week of March: “Read Across America Day” on March 2 and “World Book Day” on March 5.
Can you imagine a world without books? Who would want to? If you can instill a love for books in kids and teens, you are giving them a companion that will always be with them. Because books can be a person’s best friend. I know that sounds bold, but this has been true for me.
Today, we are so lucky we have such easy access to books, we just need to know where to look.
My friends at Words Alive are creating a tremendous positive impact on helping reduce illiteracy in the US. I asked them for their thoughts on the impact of literacy in life outcomes. They said:
Literacy development starts early, and students who struggle with reading are at a significantly higher risk for illiteracy and low-literacy later in life. Research has shown a strong connection between low-literacy and poor life outcomes such as poverty, reliance on public assistance programs, underemployment, and high risks of incarceration. Thankfully, this is entirely preventable!
We read to learn, to experience our world, and to advocate for ourselves — quite simply, to live full lives. In this way, literacy is a fundamental skill needed for life success, yet millions of young people and adults across America lack basic reading proficiency. At Words Alive, our goal is to change the lives of children and families in our community by fostering a love of reading, ensuring they won’t be counted among that number. Very often, this starts early, at home, and with quality books in hand to read!
Literacy is important not only because it allows you to read books for pleasure, it is also essential for navigating day-to-day life. For those of us who had access to quality literacy education from a young age, it can be easy to forget how often we utilize literacy skills for activities other than book-reading. For those who struggle with literacy, it is impossible to forget. Reading is necessary when navigating street signs, applying for jobs, understanding medical instructions, voting, and much, much more. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, not everyone has equal access to the quality literacy education that is needed to thrive.
Numerous studies have shown that low-income families own disproportionately fewer books than their middle and upper-income peers. Recent research shows that among children in low-income communities, the average book-to-child ownership ratio is a staggering 300 children to one book (highlighting that in most cases, these homes simply do NOT own quality, age-appropriate reading material) compared to 12 books per child in middle and upper-income communities. With this dynamic in consideration, much attention needs to be paid to children from low-income backgrounds and their access to literary resources.
Children in lower income communities are able to overcome these disadvantages, however, when families are encouraged to engage in reading and writing at home – and are provided the materials and resources to do so. Children who engaged in this play performed on equal level to their higher income peers in recognizing and naming letters, showing elevated levels of pre-literacy skills, handling books, and writing – making the case that literacy is the great equalizer in educational success!
When parents read with their children, they show that they value reading and that reading is a pleasurable activity. Children who can read become agents of their own education. Adults who can read become architects of their own success. At Words Alive, our mission is to open opportunities for life success by inspiring a commitment to reading. We are proud to join Gabriella in celebrating Read Across America Day and World Book Day! Join us in the movement!
Every parent, no matter how busy you are, please to read to your children. These are the moments your children will treasure and remember for the rest of their lives. I know it will require effort on your part, especially if you have more than one child. Through your effort, you will be instilling in them the joy of being read to, which will translate into creating a desire in them to read by themselves.
If you don’t have children of your own, you might still have nephews and nieces to whom you can recommend books or give books to on special occasions. If you don’t have children in your extended family, organizations like Words Alive make it possible to share the power of literacy with kids across the US.
This week, in whatever way you find most meaningful, take a moment to celebrate and appreciate what books and literacy have meant to you by doing something to give the joy of reading to someone else.
Help us to continue inspiring a love of reading in over 5,000 students and families each month by making a donation today! www.wordsalive.org/donate