Most of us read because we love it, not because we have to do it. As a reader, as a writer, as a bookseller, there’s very little that makes me as happy as seeing a kid fall in love with reading.
So it breaks my heart a little bit when parents won’t foster that love by getting their kids books.
Breaks my heart even more when parents can’t.
I know this is a bit early, but over the next month and a half, as you’re shopping for the holidays, take a moment to think about kids who haven’t yet gotten to fall in love with reading, the ones without access to books. There are a shocking number of them out there, and it isn’t just that they don’t have books. Many of these kids have parents who either can’t or don’t want to read to them, or parents who don’t speak English.
These kids don’t usually have access to pre-school or head-start programs, and many of them start school not only not knowing how to read, but having never been read to. They start out at a severe disadvantage, a fundamental unfamiliarity with what reading it, and most of them never catch up. Most states don’t have an education system that allows for it. Held back academically, resentful of reading because of the difficulty it presents, this is something that follows them all through school and beyond. It limits peer associations and social skills, severely limits college opportunities and job possibilities. A number of them drop out because it’s clear they weren’t going to graduate anyway.
It’s a bleak future for kids who never really had another option available to them, but you can help.
Many, many bookstores do book drives through the holiday season to gather books for different organizations. Usually they’re aimed at the youngest children, trying to foster a knowledge and love of reading before they get to school so it’s something they’ll pursue on their own, whether their parents are willing/able to help them or not. Most of the books for this age range, not counting the hardcover picture books, range from $3.99-$7.99. If you can do even just one book through the season, it makes a big difference. That’s another kid who’ll get a book, something that’s purely theirs, and many organizations, rather than simply giving the book and leaving, will work with both child and parent to foster these important skills.
Holiday shopping brings with it a deluge of requests for donations for a lot of good, important programs benefitting a wide range of people, and we all filter through those requests by what’s most important to us and what we can afford.
If this is something that’s important to you, check with your local bookstore and see if they’re supporting a book drive this year. For the holidays, most of the organizations request new books, but if you gently used books to donate, you can usually get the organization’s information from the store and give them your books for other purposes through the year.
A single book can make an amazing difference in a child’s life.
Until next time~