No. 808



If there is one thing I have learned in almost 20 years of writing columns, it is that what I have to say is just so many words on paper unless I can express my thoughts and ideas clearly, with conviction. It must also be of interest and have real benefits for the vast majority of my readers.
If you will tune me in and really think about what I have to share today, I believe you will agree that this one qualifies on all counts. As you may know, my real passion is literacy, especially helping children in disadvantaged or low-income homes learn to read at an early age. A member of our Conway Bookcase Project Committee, and a former teacher, told me recently that if a child is not reading at grade level by the third grade, the chances of this child later winding up in prison are very high.
As you may know, illiteracy affects every single person in our nation, either positively or negatively. No literate or highly successful person in our society is above having an illiterate school drop-out who can’t find a job, steal from or rob them, or even worse, take their life. And this is just one example of how we are all affected. To improve literacy and our schools, reading must begin in the home with what is often called Family Literacy. I have a favorite aunt who has taught fourth grade in one of our local elementary schools for almost four decades. Several years ago she shared a school newsletter that contained the following article.
FAMILY LITERACY: Family literacy is a powerful and innovative approach to education. It is a bridge that leads to a more literate future for American families. It is often said that reading can take us places that we have never been. We can soar as high as a bird, travel to an exotic land, sail upon the open sea, or become a hero or a villain, all within the pages of a book. There is no better way to connect, educate, and just have fun with children than to read to them. (Parents and grandparents are you listening?) Here are 10 ways to encourage children to read.
1. Share at least one book every day with your child. 2. Select a quiet, comfortable place to share a book with your child. 3. Children need to see reading as a fun thing to do if they are to become good readers. Make reading a family fun ritual. Allow for age and needs of your child. 4. Listen to your child and encourage his/her listening. 5. Think and talk about the stories that you read as you go about daily life.
6. It is OK, even good, to read the same story repeatedly to your child. Children love to hear books repeated many times. Let your child turn the pages, touch the book, explore. Be patient. 7. Children are never too young to read to! Babies respond to sound and language before they are born. 8. Even when children can read, they still need to be read to. 9. Take your child to the library. 10. Apply for a library card and use it regularly.
Here are a few closing comments to consider. In the age of technology where we now live, all the major companies are spending billions of dollars on advertising to entice a younger audience to buy all the latest gadgets, including cell phones. However, for a person to succeed in life, he must be able to read. This fact makes it even more critical for parents, and grandparents, to begin Family Literacy in the home. When I encounter people who are struggling, I also see the results of poor reading and communication skills. This is why reading must begin very early in life.
(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 www.bookcaseforeverychild.com. You won’t go wrong helping a needy child.)