Bedtime Stories: Getting our Kids to ‘Happily Ever After’

When bedtime rolls around in our family, reading is part of the routine. Sometimes, my 9-year-old son reads independently. Sometimes, I grab my book and we read side by side. And, the best nights are when we read some of the oldies but goodies he chooses to keep on his bookshelf like Food Fight, Tickle Monster, or Spoon. These are the books that conjure up memories and make us laugh together.

Sadly, for almost 40 million adults in America, reading a bedtime story with their child is not a possibility as they are functionally illiterate. Someone who is functionally illiterate does not have adequate reading or writing skills to manage daily living and employment tasks, let alone read to their child. Those who are functionally illiterate are not equipped to break themselves nor their children out of the cycles of poverty that have plagued their families for generations.

The seeds of the “achievement gap” are sown in the first few years of a low-income child’s life. By age three, children from low-income homes have been exposed to 30 million fewer words than their peers from middle-income homes. Only 48% of low-income students are “school-ready” by age five, compared to 75% of their middle-income peers. To catch up, they need to make twice as much progress as their peers during kindergarten. An added hurdle worth understanding: in low income areas, there is only one book for every 300 kids, but middle-class neighborhoods average 13 books per child. Books in the home is an early predictor of success in school.

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Book Trust believes that illiteracy is the greatest civil rights challenge facing our nation today. By 2020, more than half of the nation’s children are expected to be part of a minority race. And, we know that the African American and Latino communities face the highest poverty rates in our country. Not surprisingly, these sub-groups have the lowest reading proficiency rates and the highest high school dropout rates.  Yet these children are the future of our nation. For them to be successful in life, they have to first be successful in school and in order to be successful in school, they have to learn how to read.

If these children grow up to be functionally illiterate, the drain on our economy will continue to grow. Today an estimated $300 billion dollars in annual opportunity costs is directly attributed to the fact that 14% of US adults cannot read at a functional level. The personal cost of illiteracy means that people in the US with poor literacy skills are: more than two times more likely to be unemployed, will earn 30-42% less than their literate counterparts, and are more likely to have poor health, be incarcerated and be a repeat offender.

We owe our children more. That is why Book Trust exists. During this holiday season, we invite you to support Book Trust in changing the trajectory of children’s lives through book choice and ownership. Book Trust students become engaged in reading when they choose books they are interested in each month of the school year. They develop the habits and behaviors of great readers by participating month in and month out. They celebrate their books when they arrive, and they read independently at school and bring home their very own books to read with family members as they grow their home libraries throughout the year.

We need your help in making sure kids in need can beat the odds.  The Book Trust students of today and tomorrow deserve the right to read bedtime stories to their own children someday.

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