I grew up in a home filled with books.
Even when my parents were low-income college students, reading was very important in our home. My mom recalls the books I had memorized at age 2 and spent time reading to me and my sisters daily. I have always had a passion for reading and, at an early age, I knew I wanted to be a teacher when I grew up.
Fast forward to my college years: I remember training to become a teacher and obtaining an internship at an elementary school. I watched and learned from some excellent teachers how to engage students in a love of books and help them to fall in love with reading.
I remember one particular student, who often had difficulty finding books at her reading level. When asked to pick a free choice book from the class library, she looked lost and overwhelmed.
I started to do my research, I found title after title of books that had familiar words and simple text. I started searching thrift stores and yard sales for books at an appropriate level for her that would also be high-interest and fun. I put together a basket of books targeted specifically to her needs.
I remember the look on her face when she opened the first book and could read the words all on her own. The confidence that beamed from her face brought a huge smile to mine.
In my mind, these memories of teaching stick out the very most. The times when a student feels really successful reading for the first time.
This is what drives teachers to do what they do, for little pay, and long hours of work and worry.
In the three years I devoted to teaching first grade, I spent hours and hundreds of dollars curating a classroom library that would meet the needs of students at all levels and interests.
Colorful and accurate non-fiction with fascinating facts and amazing text features, beginning readers with predictive text and low word count, all the way up to easy-reader chapter books with age-appropriate plot lines.
I taught in a Title I school. This means that the student base was at least 40% from low-income families. Many of these students only saw books at school. Research shows that:
61% of low-income families have no age-appropriate books in their homes. (1)
Children from middle-income homes have on average 13 books per child. There is only one book for every 300 children in low-income neighborhoods. (2)
Fewer than half (48%) of young children in the U.S. are read to daily. The percentage of children read to daily drops even lower (to 36%) among low-income families, whose children face the highest risk of literacy problems. (3)
Even among high-income families, however, more than two out of every five children are not read to daily. (3)
The average child growing up in a middle-class family has been exposed to 1,000 to 1,700 hours of one-on-one picture book reading. (4)
The average child growing up in a low-income family has only been exposed to 25 hours of one-on-one reading. (4)
The inequities are clear.
“The difference between being raised in a bookless home compared to being raised in a home with a 500-book library has as great an effect on the level of education a child will attain as having parents who are barely literate (three years of education) compared to having parents who have a university education (15 or 16 years of education)… Both factors, having a 500-book library or having university-educated parents, propel a child 3.2 years further in education, on average.” (5)
I knew that that the way to make up the difference was to invest money, time and heart into creating a print-rich classroom and getting as many books into student’s homes as possible. When I heard that the Ladie’s Community Club of Tooele would be hosting a book drive, I knew it was something that we can all get behind as a community and believe in.
Let’s support our teachers and students by relieving some of that burden. While you a spring cleaning, consider going through your books and see if you can find any appropriate for children ages 5-12 and donate to our Book Drive. If you don’t have any books to donate, please consider a monetary donation. We would love to have your support, the more books we collect, the more students and teachers we can reach.
• (Source: Reading Literacy in the United States: Findings from the IEA Reading Literacy Study, 1996.)
• (Source: Neuman, S., & Dickinson, D. (Eds.). (2006) Handbook of Early Literacy Research (Vol. 2).]
• (Source: Reach Out and Read, Reading Across the Nation: A Chartbook, 2007)
• (Source: McQuillan, J. (1998). The Literacy Crisis: False Claims, Real Solutions. Heinemann. –pulled from the Reading Is Fundamental website)
• (Source: Science Daily, May 21, 2010. Books in home as important as parents’ education in determining children’s education level)