No. 1066




Someone has said that “Life is a library owned by an author. In it are a few books which he writes himself, but most of them were written for him.” This is so true, but what this statement does not say is when the process of reading and literacy should begin in a child’s life. This is the real rub. It is also the reason so many of our children drop out of school in the later grades and enter society with little hope of achieving success and having a happy, productive life.
As you may know, here in our community we have been building quality, personalized bookcases and giving them, with a starter set of pre-school books, to children being reared in low-income families. Combined with our other projects, we have given more than 1,600 thus far.
The children who receive our bookcases are mostly 4 years of age, but according to some research that I have just learned, this is too late for some of them. The Center for the Developing Child at Harvard University has published the results of some research on human brain development that sheds new light on this important topic.
Here is what these researchers, and others, have learned. A child is born with 100 billion brain cells called neurons that are not connected. We could think of them as tiny light bulbs in the brain. When a child learns something and is exposed to a childhood experience, these neurons connect and form a synapse.
In the first few years of life, 700 of these synapses or connections occur in a child’s brain each second. The biology of the brain is genetic and develops regardless of what the child is exposed to, but what is not genetic are those early childhood experiences that determine whether the child’s brain is weak or strong, fragile or sturdy. This is completely dependent upon the child’s early childhood experiences. The researchers also found that 85 percent of a child’s personality, social skills and intellect are formed in the first five years of life.
The foundation for language happens the first year, and the architecture for higher cognitive function such as problem solving, negotiating and compromise happens in the first five years. A good example to mentally see this is to think about those old dial-up computers we used to have that took forever to load a video, and now high-speed Internet is almost instantaneous.
While maybe difficult to understand, this is the reason the Dolly Parton Imagination Library is so vital to the mental development of a young child, especially those who have no books in their homes. Their website is
When signed up for the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, a child receives a different book through the mail each month, beginning at birth until they are 5 years of age. This is a tremendous help in providing those early childhood experiences so necessary for the child’s mental development. This wonderful program and our Bookcase for Every Child are a perfect match. We target children from low-income families and give them a bookcase with their name on it as a place to keep these and future books, beyond Dolly Parton, as they develop the habit of lifelong reading.
As I thought about this process and helping these special children, I came up with a new theme for our bookcase project -- Bookcase for Every Child: Changing Lives and Futures, One at a Time.
(Editor’s Note: Bookcase for Every Child – Changing Lives & Futures – ONE AT A TIME. Please visit our website: