Monday, February 22, 2010

Salad Days Soapbox: Read to Your Kids!

Soren and his buddy Berkeley, reading a book together. This may or may not have been staged to create a photo for this post.
Either way, Berke's cute hand on Soren's shoulder was all him.

I recently read this article in Parenting Magazine about the current early literacy crisis and found it very interesting and pretty alarming. The article talks a lot about how important it is to read to your young children and all the benefits they get from regular time spent reading. I think most people know it is important and understand the benefits. What struck me the most is how great an effect the plummeting literacy rates and the lack of access to high quality early education programs seem to have on our society. Here are some excerpts:
By second grade, we can predict with reasonable accuracy who will go on to higher education and who will not, based on their literacy skills...If a child isn't caught up by third grade, it requires intense intervention to close this gap... Having reading difficulties also increases the odds that a child will drop out of school and have a criminal record. States like California and Indiana have even factored in the number of third-graders who are not reading at grade level when planning future jail construction

Children also need access to books, and far too many don't have that. While a child growing up in a middle-class neighborhood will own an average of 13 books at any given time, low-income communities average about one book for every 300 children, according to University of Michigan professor Susan Neuman, Ed.D., author of Changing the Odds for Children at Risk. Even all libraries aren't created equal: School libraries in low-income areas average half the number of children's books as those in middle-income neighborhoods, and public libraries in these communities often have more restrictive hours of operation. "Physical and psychological proximity to books and reading materials is critical. A child can't pick up a book that isn't there," says Neuman.
I couldn't believe the part about the number of books children have in their home. I remember hearing statistics like this when my mom was working for Reading is Fundamental, but it is still shocking.

Here's what the article had to say about things you can do to help the crisis. I should note that from the quick research I did on the bill mentioned below it seems like it is good, but for all I know there could be some horrible thing tacked on the end that says all our kids are going to get barcodes tattooed on their necks or something. So if anyone knows of a reason why it shouldn't pass (other than that you hate kids and think they shouldn't learn) feel free to pipe up.
  • Get behind the bills. At press time, the House of Representatives had approved The Early Learning Challenge Fund, which, if it passes the Senate and is signed into law, would allocate $1 billion a year for eight years to fund state initiatives that increase the number of disadvantaged children who participate in high-quality early learning programs.
  • Demand more public pre-K programs. At the website, you can sign up for their newsletters and to receive notices about supporting pending legislation in your state.
  • Donate books, time, or money. These groups are working to get books to kids and volunteers into classrooms to read:
To sum up: Read to your kids. Buy them books and take them to the library. Tell your lawmakers that early childhood education is essential and high quality programs should be available to everyone. Books are cheaper than jails, so donate books to kids who don't otherwise have access to them.


Anonymous said...

Rich and Leslie...and JOnas said...

I hate kids and Rich thinks bar codes could be fun.

Alia! said...

aaaw yes! books. :) i hope we get to see each other soon!