Yale University-educated author Clarence Day (1874-1935) once said of books, “The most remarkable creation of man; nothing else he builds ever lasts … monuments fall … civilizations grow old and die out … but in the world of books are volumes that live on, still as young and fresh as the day they were written … still telling men’s hearts of the hearts of men centuries dead.”
These are some fantastic thoughts and they invite us to read great books and learn for our enjoyment and enlightenment, as we have the privilege of joining the great thinkers and writers of the ages. It has been said there is nothing that needs to be done that books can’t help us do better. As I look back over my own life, I am sad to say that I did not get turned on to books until a good part of my race had already been run. However, in the past several years it has been my mission to help preschool children being reared in low-income families to discover the joy of reading and learning. A child that learns to read, and reads good quality books and material, will have a distinct advantage for success later in life.
If you are a regular reader of my column, you know that I joined with a group of my fellow citizens in 2005 and started a literacy project to build quality, personalized bookcases and give them, along with a starter set of books, to 50 of these special children each year. When we started we had a book drive, supported by our local newspaper, and had more than 6,000 volumes donated in less than three months. I did not know enough back then to be specific and request only preschool books, so many of the books donated were too advanced for our children. We gave 3,000 volumes to our local Boys and Girls club.
This past year, we had another book drive to collect books to give to all of the 260 children in our public school Pre-K program, in addition to the children who would receive bookcases and books. We had enough to give each child two books that would be their very own, and what a blessing to see the smiles on their faces. However, we still had books donated that were too advanced, so I took these to the Boys & Girls Club of Faulkner County. While I was there the director, Mr. Clint Brock, took me into the library to show me how the books were color coded by grade, to make it easy for the children to pick out those they wanted to read.
During my visit, Clint told me something that was music to my ears. “We make them read every day.” He had already told me they were signing up children for their summer program. They only had 300 spots available and had more than 50 children on their waiting list. As I thought about his comment that they made the children read every day, it was clear to me that this is what parents should do if they want their young children to get ahead and do well in school. It can literally mean the difference between success and failure for them.
This is especially important in view of the fact that the Arkansas Campaign for Grade Level Reading (AR-GLR) reports that tests show only 31 percent of third graders are reading at grade level. Now, you do the math, but this means that 69 percent of our state’s third graders are not reading at grade level. If you read my column in another state, your state may not be doing any better. This is so important for all of us, as illiteracy is the root cause for much of the crime we see in America today. Please, even though they may not like it, make your children read. They will thank you later.
(Editor’s Note: THE DEAL OF THE CENTURY – Begin your day on a positive note – 365 days for $12. This will benefit the Bookcase for Every Child project. Go to www.apositivemomentwithjim.com to subscribe.)