No. 672



To be sure, success is a relative term. As I have grown a little older and hopefully a little wiser, I finally came to realize that regardless of what success meant to each individual person, they must build a solid foundation that would sustain them through the good times and the bad times. This is why I have devoted a good part of my life, these past semi-retirement years, to our literacy project called “A Bookcase for Every Child.” While there are always exceptions to the rule, I have observed that the vast majority of successful people I know and know about, are avid readers. They read for pleasure and for profit. In today’s technological society, forming good reading habits is really the foundation for any long-term success.
We have a terrific new school superintendent here in Conway by the name of Dr. Greg Murry. He was gracious enough to accept our bookcase project committee’s invitation to be our keynote speaker for the fourth annual Awards Ceremony on April 27, 2008, to present 50 more personalized, oak bookcases and some books to 3-, 4- and 5-year-old children enrolled in our Head Start program. During his talk he gave me an insight that I had never known or thought about in all the years I have been involved in improving literacy. I’m sure everyone else caught it as well.
But first, this personal background: Dr. Murry said, “I love books. When everyone else was getting toys I wanted a book. My mother and two sisters worked for the Little Rock Public Library and I spent a lot of time there. The bookshelves in our home were lined with books and my mother, now 87 years young, recently retired after 52 years as church librarian.” He also said, “In our school system, if I had to choose between teaching a child to run or to read, I would take reading every time. Our main job is to teach children to read.” Now, that is fantastic news and I wish every superintendent and administrator in the nation believed this way. I can promise you, we would have much better schools.
Here is that insight: A child who grows up in a disadvantaged home environment hears approximately 2,900 words before they enter the first grade. On the other hand, a child who grows up in a reading rich home environment will hear twice that many words before they enter school. This is critical because we use words to think with, write with and communicate with, and the ability to know and use words is responsible for much of the success we achieve as a person. When you think about the fact that four of every 10 students in American schools today drop out and do not graduate, you begin to clearly see the problem. In many cases, they are simply drop-outs waiting to happen.
This is why we are doing our dead-level best to reach these young children from disadvantaged homes before they enter school and become candidates for dropout. Dr. Murry also said that a child who will read just 15 minutes a day outside of school will read a million words of text each year. Think of the advantage this child has over other students who read little or none at all.
He went on to say, “For parents who have school-aged children, it is important to have books, bookshelves and bookcases in your home. It is also important for them to see you reading. The value we place on something speaks volumes to our children.” Yes, the time we invest in helping our children develop a passion for reading will be returned many times over in the coming years.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a public speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034. To support literacy, buy his book: “Learning, Earning & Giving Back.”)