Today, thousands of little bookworms will be getting lost in a good story as our nation marks its national celebration of reading. But of course, this all depends on you having a book to read in the first place…
Today is slightly bittersweet for organizations such as Book Trust.
On the one hand, we’re overjoyed that there is a national day devoted to motivating more children and teens to get involved in reading and books. It’s a fabulous idea.
The National Education Association, which has been running this signature program for 19 years now, should be applauded for its hard work and success.
And yet still, Book Trust can’t celebrate unreservedly. That’s because all our work revolves around a single, sad fact: There are thousands of children across America who would like nothing better than to read, but have no books.
Are you surprised? A little bit taken aback that kids all across one of the wealthiest nations in the world can’t get their hands on a two-dollar book?
Here are a couple of statistics that might help paint a clearer picture. In the United States, middle income families have, on average, 13 books for every child.
In low income areas however, there is just 1 book for every 300 children. For those kids, the idea of settling down with a good storybook is completely foreign.
This is a tragedy on many levels. But the main point is pretty basic: Children need books and they need to be read to by their parents.
There is only a brief window of time for a child to learn basic literacy skills – and everything they learn afterwards will grow from those foundations.
So without access to books, especially in the younger years, a child’s progress is hobbled before it’s even begun. It’s like sending them out to the baseball mound without a bat.
And yet each year, thousands of children from low income families start school without ever having owned a book.
They will have enjoyed no stories at bedtime. They will never have escaped to another magical world between the covers of a book. And they will have heard roughly 30 million fewer words than their middle-class peers.
In fact, maybe we should revisit that baseball analogy: It’s like sending a child out to the baseball mound without a bat, wearing a blindfold and with their legs tied together.
Because realistically, it’s nearly impossible for a young kid to beat those odds. And once school starts, the distance between the achievers and those left behind will only grow.
Cycle of failure
Inevitably, all this has an impact. Currently, 83% of low income 4th grade students* score below proficiency in reading.
(That’s a full 30% higher than the corresponding figure for their middle and high income peers.)
For these kids, that cycle of failure started right at the beginning – with all those stories they didn’t hear at home and all the books they didn’t have an opportunity to read.
This is why Book Trust exists. We realize that the child with no access to books is being denied a fair start in life, and that this is wrong.
Our mission is simple. First, we empower children from low-income schools to choose their own books (each child gets two or three new books every month of the school year).
And then – the best part! – they get to keep every single copy so they can build a library at home.
Every child deserves an opportunity to fall in love with reading – and we make that happen.
This year, we are providing 881,000 books to 38,000 children throughout 15 States. And our work makes a concrete difference.
Over the course of a school year, the percentage of Book Trust students reading at grade level jumps from 41% to 70%. Teachers report on the startling progress made by previously disinterested students, who quickly become avid readers.
Of course they do. All kids burn with curiosity and interest – they just need something to feed them. With our help, inquisitive young minds fall in love with reading.
For an overwhelming majority, their educational outlook is transformed.
And no wonder. They’ve just discovered a whole new world.
*Most recent data from the U.S. Department of Education.
Want to help a Book Trust student? Just $10 a month for 10 months will enable a child to buy new books every month for a whole school year.
Give them a good send-off: Eight Tips for Bedtime Reading.
Find out Why Books Matter for Children.