No. 728


Some of the most rewarding days of my life took place in the 1970s, when I was working as a businessman consultant with the nation’s public schools, mostly in my home state of Arkansas. During the month of August when schools were getting ready to start the fall term, they would hold what were called pre-school workshops as administrators and teachers would come back together after the summer break, to bone-up on changes in legislation, new programs and concepts that needed to be common knowledge. One of the things they all wanted was a positive attitude as they prepared to greet the students who were coming to learn various subjects and skills that would prepare them for a successful career and life.
Because this was my career calling, I would be retained to speak to the entire faculty and provide that “shot-in-the-arm” to help them refocus and be reminded of the tremendous potential they had to make a difference in the lives of each and every student who attended their school. One year I recall speaking to the K-12 faculty of a large district in our state and there were almost 400 administrators and teachers in attendance. I noted the make up of my audience was approximately 40 percent Caucasian and 60 percent African-American, and the student body was reflective of this mix as well. There seemed to be harmony among the staff and the city had a thriving economy with good paying jobs in both the business and industrial sectors.
In the intervening years, something happened. This is a sad story that has caused this school district and this community to suffer more than any other community in our state. I could beat around the bush all day, but the reason is something called “White Flight,” as almost 200 white students have left this school district each year and a total of 2,000 over the past decade. The bottom line is that this impacts revenue as state funding follows the child. This situation has resulted in fewer teachers being hired, fewer meals being served, fewer buses running and fewer buildings being operated. The whole community is impacted in a negative way.
The real question is: “Why are white parents moving their children to private schools, other schools in the area, or to other school districts?” There are many factors at work here, but the real reason is something we call “A Quality Education,” as parents of any race want the very best education for their children. You can believe me when I tell you that my heart hurts for this school and this community. While it’s a long-term solution, the real answer is literacy, because this is where education and good schools begin. A child cannot learn if he or she cannot read.
This is why our “Bookcase for Every Child” project is so important and why I am devoting most of my time and resources to getting projects started here in my state and all across America. As I have said many times before, if you want to really impact a child’s life, when they are 3, 4 or 5 years of age, the earlier the better, give them a personalized bookcase, a starter set of books and read to them as much as humanly possible. The children from low-income homes are the ones who later drop out of school, because parents have few books for them to read and many of the parents can’t read either.
I won’t tell you the name of the community and school district that I have been describing because, regardless of where you live, I just want you to ask yourself this question, “Could this be my community, if not now, down the road a few years?” We must all work together to improve literacy for the sake of our children and our nation.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a public speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034. To begin a bookcase literacy project visit You won’t go wrong helping a needy child.)