No. 729

The next password is Zenia



We hear a lot these days about school drop-outs and what causes this to happen to so many students. In some parts of our nation the number is as high as four of every 10 students who start in Kindergarten but never walk down the aisle to get a high school diploma. There are also a vast number of students who walk across the stage to the familiar refrain of “Pomp & Circumstances” but who cannot read the diploma they are given. The answer to this dilemma may be a lot simpler than many people realize. The key to reading, learning and success in school largely depends on the student’s vocabulary, especially in the early years of a child’s life.
Sometime back, researchers in a major university took a graduating class, gave them an English vocabulary test and then tracked them for 20 years. Strange as it may seem, those who knew the definitions of the most words were in the highest income group 20 years later. The researchers discovered that the people who in the beginning had the worst vocabulary scores were in the lowest income group 20 years later. There wasn’t a single exception. Does that strike you as utterly astounding?
Here it’s important to note that the students in this study were college graduates. How about the millions of students who graduate from high school but never enter college? Now let’s go a little lower on the scale. How about the millions of students who drop out of high school and do not graduate, on merit or as a social promotion? If this person happens to be your child or grandchild, do you have any idea what kind of life they will have in our society today as a high school drop-out? In the majority of cases, high school drop-outs face a life of much lower income, even if they can find a job, and this leads to all kinds of problems for society. To say it very simply, we are all affected by the vast number of high school drop-outs whether we know it or not, or whether we like it or not.
As I have said so often in this column, the children who are at the greatest risk are those who are being reared in low-income homes. For the most part, these children do not grow up with books to read or parents who read to them. (Of course, many parents can’t read, and this is generational.) This is the essence of why many of them will later drop out of school, and we are all the losers when they do. The best time to reach these children and start them on the road to reading and developing a good vocabulary is when they are 3, 4 and 5 years of age. This is why our “Bookcase for Every Child” targets these special children. We want to give them hope and the tools to succeed, and help them stay in school until they graduate, at least from high school.
You may ask, “What can I do to make a difference?” You can help start a “Bookcase for Every Child” project in your community. We started this project here in Conway in 2005 and we don’t use any tax money or grants of any kind. We have an annual Bookcase Literacy Banquet to raise the funds to build quality personalized bookcases. We have given 250 so far. We also take a small portion of the proceeds to give to other communities as “seed” money to help start their own project. When other projects are up and going, they do the same thing and, in time, this project can and will spread all across the country. No one associated with our project personally earns a penny. It’s all about giving back. If you are willing and interested in helping to start a project, go to our Web site listed below. Just drop me a note.
(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.)

The next password is Zenia