No. 1243



My friend, here are three statements you can take to the bank. “If you are reading this, it is likely because a parent or teacher taught you to read early in life. Reading is the cornerstone of a successful education; without it, not much else matters. Reading benefits imagination, vocabulary, and unlocks the door to all other subjects.”
These statements were made by Arkansas’ Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin in a recent guest column published in our state’s only statewide newspaper, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. As I read his tremendous article, I realized we were kindred spirits, and if he is willing I plan on involving him in our Conway Bookcase Project.
It was just a few short years ago that the report came out that only 31 percent of our state’s third graders were reading at grade level, the benchmark that tells a lot about a child’s chances for future success. This is the grade where a child begins to use reading as a way to learn, instead of learning to read. We started our Conway Bookcase Project back in 2005, and I am happy to say that in the intervening years we have made great progress, especially in the area of “awareness” of our need to improve literacy in our schools. In the past several years I have seen more and more people join the battle to defeat illiteracy, especially non-profits like the Dolly Parton Imagination Library.
We certainly, as parents, can provide our children books in the home and read to them. However, children being reared in low-income homes have the greatest need of all because the problem for them is generational, and in most cases parents have no books for their children to read. When parents cannot read proficiently and do not see the great value of reading, their children suffer in the early years where most habits and values are formed.
We have something special taking place here in Conway and in a few other cities and towns across the nation. We are providing a personalized bookcase and a starter set of books to the children of these low-income families.
This is something they will value for the rest of their lives. And believe it or not, the thing that means the most for these children is the little gold-plated name plate affixed to their bookcase. These children do not receive many accolades or awards, and to see their name on a bookcase has special meaning for them. We have given more than 750 of these bookcases here in Conway, and more than 2,000 nationwide since we started. I just wish every community in America had a bookcase project, which is much more difficult to achieve than giving books and reading to children.
Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin is to be highly commended for his efforts to improve literacy for Arkansas children. In his article he concludes, “My parents and teachers instilled in me a love for reading and a passion for learning. I have worked hard to pass that love for reading on to my two school-aged children, and I want to share the magic of learning with every Arkansas student and help ignite the spark that burns for a lifetime. We should not rest until every Arkansas child is reading at grade level by the end of the third grade.” I might add: this should be the goal of every state, school and student throughout America.
(Editor’s Note: JIM DAVIDSON is an author, public speaker, syndicated columnist and founder of the Bookcase for Every Child project. Since its inception in 1995, Jim’s column has been self-syndicated to over 375 newspapers in 35 states, making it one of the most successful in the history of American journalism.)