No. 774



Several years ago I had a friend by the name of George Fisher, who was the political cartoonist for our statewide newspaper. While George is no longer with us, most of the time we did not agree politically, but he was a fine man and tremendously talented. He had married a woman from over in the country of England and he always placed her name “Snooky” somewhere in his cartoons. Most everyone who saw his cartoons spent at least some time trying to find her name. This has just been an aside, but it’s amazing how the mind works when you begin to use it. I was thinking about my topic today and something George said to me years ago popped into my mind, “It’s not the gale, but the set of the sail, that determines the way I shall go.”
I have since learned that this was a quote by Ella Wheeler Wilcox, but it really personifies the mission I have had for the past decade to improve literacy in our nation. As time has passed it is tremendously humbling to see what God is doing to use our “Bookcase for Every Child” project more and more to bring literacy to the front burner. Every once in a while, something comes along to reinforce the mission we have been on. Sometime back I spoke to the Stuttgart (Arkansas) Lions Club. and Bill Schrum, a reporter, for the Stuttgart Daily Leader, wrote an article about my talk. He gave some statistics that I had never seen before, quoting the Right to Read Foundation and the National Institute for Literacy.
Here are some statistics that should cause you to get on the band wagon if you are not already there. First, from the Right to Read Foundation: Forty-two million American adults can’t read at all. Fifty million American adults are unable to read at a higher level than is expected of a fourth or fifth grader. The number of adults who are functionally illiterate increases by 2.25 million each year. Twenty percent of high school seniors can be classified as functionally illiterate at the time they graduate.
Now, from the National Institute for Literacy (this will help you see what it is costing each of us): Seventy percent of prisoners in state and federal systems can be classified as illiterate. Eighty-five percent of all juvenile offenders rate as functionally or marginally illiterate. Forty-three percent of those whose literacy skills are the lowest live in poverty.
My theme from the very beginning has been “Everyone Can Do Something.” Just by getting everyone who reads this column involved will go a long way. While I have no way of knowing who is reading my column each week, the feedback I receive here in my own community tells me there are thousands of people who are faithful readers. Back before the down turn in our economy, and a lot more papers were carrying it, we did a little survey and found the readership may be close to a million readers each week. If you read my column, here is what I would like to ask you to do … do something to help improve literacy rates in America.
First, get involved with your own children and grandchildren. Let them see you reading and have books available in your home. Go to your local schools and read to children. Give books as birthday and Christmas gifts. Support your local library and go there often. Help start a “Bookcase for Every Child” project in your community. We are all volunteers and use no tax money or grants of any kind, which is really a novel idea in today’s economy. Everything you would need is on our Web site: Thanks for reading.
(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.)