Reading is important. This is not exactly “news.” But the impact of NOT reading and the effect it can have on people and our communities might not be as well understood. This impact has a magnified importance when you put it in the context of the development of our children. Here are a just a few nuggets gleaned from dosomething.org, which creates awareness and opportunities to improve the world for young people:
• Students who can’t read proficiently by the end of 3rd grade are four times more likely to drop out of school.
• Two out of three students who can’t read proficiently by the end of 4th grade will end up in jail or on welfare. Over 70 percent of America’s inmates can’t read above a 4th grade level.
• Teenage girls between the ages of 16 and 19 who live at or below the poverty line and have below average literacy skills are six times more likely to have children out of wedlock than girls their age who can read proficiently.
• Reports show that the rate of low literacy in the United States directly costs the health care industry over $70 million every year.
The list of facts goes on and on, and spans every aspect of societal challenges, from crime to health care to negative family dynamics.
I was fortunate. Some of my earliest memories are of my parents reading children’s books to me. I could count on books as gifts from grandparents and godparents. On car trips for holiday gatherings and vacations, my mother would read novels out loud to my sister and I as we sat in the back seat. My wife and I made doing these same sorts of things for our own children a priority, as did the grandparents.
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But not everyone is as fortunate as I was. The struggle for many in our community is indeed real. Food, shelter and safety are the first priority for many parents in terms of raising their kids, and that in and of itself can sometimes be an insurmountable challenge, let alone being able to come up with the time and money to focus on accelerating the literacy levels of their children. That is why it was important for The Gazette to get behind initiatives such as Ready to Read and the library foundation’s Dolly Parton Imagination Library.
The simple act of putting books in the hands of young children, and educating adults on why it is important to spend time with kids immersing them in the reading experience can solve a wide variety of the challenges we face today and in the future. I would encourage both individuals and companies to get involved in supporting these and other literacy programs. For as little as $25, you can provide a child with a year’s worth of books that will have a long-term impact that not only creates a better life for a child, but makes our community a better place. Please find a way to get involved with this important initiative.
• Chris Edwards is president of The Gazette.