No 565



The English criminologist, psychologist and writer, Havelock Ellis (1859-1939), once said about crime, "It is a name for the most obvious, extreme, and directly dangerous forms of É departure from the norm in manners and customs." He's got that right! Anyway you slice it, crime is bad news. If you consider yourself to be a person with a great deal of common sense, I want to share something that I believe will hit you where you live.
In recent months, we have started a project titled "A Bookcase for Every Child." To this date we have built 100 quality, personalized oak bookcases and given them to children in low-income families. We also had a community-wide book drive that netted more than 6,000 volumes and have given each of these children a "starter set" of books. Add to this the fact that we are also reading to these children each week in our local Head Start centers. These children are all pre-school, which means they are 3, 4 and 5 years of age.
What we are attempting to do is build a new generation of readers, which is the best hope I see for our nation's long-term literacy problem. You may know that we have between 30 and 40 million adults who cannot read at level one, or the 5th grade. Here in my home state, the number is 20 percent of the adult population. This is having a very negative effect in many different ways. Just think, all of these adults were 3, 4 and 5 years of age back when they were children.
Here is the insight that I want to share, and with God's help I hope I am successful in making this very clear. We are reading to these children each week, but we are not really teaching them how to read. The Head Start teachers, staff and, in some cases, their parents are doing that. What we are really doing is affirming them as very special human beings. When highly successful people in our community take their time and go to read to these children, it says they are important and we care about them.
This is also why having an "Awards Ceremony" is vital as part of this process. When we have 50 quality, personalized oak bookcases at our local public library and have statewide television coverage, our local newspaper, cable and college stations and a well-known keynote speaker, again it says to these children from low-income homes, you are special and we care about you.
Regardless of your age or where you live, as you read this column, here is why you should get involved. We know from national statistics that 71 percent of America's arrested are illiterate or have trouble reading or writing. What we have created in this country is a sub-culture of people who are mostly in that 20 percent that I talked about earlier. These are the people who are causing most of the problems for society. Not to be confused with white collar crime, because these people can read. They just flunked potty training.
What I am talking about is the drug culture, those who are shooting people in broad daylight, the robbery, burglary, domestic violence, rape and on and on. When we hear about 38 murders committed in our capital city in the first six months of the year, five young people killed in New Orleans at one time, we always think gangs or drugs, or both. We can say that, but really the problem is ignorance, for the most part these are people who failed in school and in life.
We must do something about this problem now, and that's why our "Bookcase for Every Child" working with children 3, 4 and 5 years of age in low-income families offers such promise. Help us by getting involved in your community. We are on the Internet at These young children are precious and we must help them before they grow up, by building a new generation of readers.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, Ark. 72034. To support literacy, buy his book, "Learning, Earning & Giving Back.")