No. 930



There is a verse in the Bible that I have come to appreciate more and more as time goes by. In Proverbs 3:27 it says, “Withhold not good to them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thy hand to do it.”
With this in mind I would like to tell you about one of the greatest needs we have in our nation today, and that is fighting the battle of illiteracy. In our modern technological society, a person does not have a prayer if he or she cannot read. Yet we have more than 42 million adults who cannot read at the fifth-grade level, and the loss of productivity and providing a safety net for most of these people is costing us billions of dollars each and every year. I dare say most of us who can read do not get too concerned for those who can’t, which is just human nature. People in high-crime areas are really paying a price for illiteracy.
With this in mind, today I would like to invite you to join me as I do my best to make a case for literacy, and I realize in many cases I am preaching to the choir. Every year here in our community and several other communities, we build 50 quality, personalized, oak bookcases and give them to pre-school children who are being reared in low-income families. After a team of volunteer craftsmen builds the bookcases, we have an awards ceremony and present the bookcases to the children and their parents. This past April we had our ninth annual Awards Ceremony, and this brought the total to 450 bookcases with an accompanying starter set of books since we started in 2005.
During this ceremony we have many community leaders come to help us celebrate this special time. This year A.J. Gary, Conway Chief of Police, gave our “welcome.” Here is what he told us: “Researchers estimate that every dollar invested in early education provides up to $16 in economic benefits, primarily from reduced crime and welfare expenditures. One long-term study of Michigan’s Perry Preschool followed two groups of at-risk, low-income 3- and 4-year olds. By age 40, the kids who did not attend Perry Preschool were four times more likely to be arrested for drug felonies, and twice as likely to be arrested for violent crimes when compared to those who participated.” Chief Gary had many other facts and statistics that space does not permit me to share with you, but you see where he was coming from.
Another important participant that day was our keynote speaker, Kathy Powers. Kathy was our 2011 Arkansas Teacher of the Year and she did an outstanding job relating to the children. She has been flown all over the nation to help implement the Common Core Standards now being used in our public schools. Here is just some of what she shared with us: Out-of-school reading habits of students has shown that even 15 minutes a day of independent reading can expose students to more than a million words of text in a year. (Anderson, Wilson & Fielding, 1988) Children who read well do better in all aspects of school and beyond.
Reading skills correspond directly to one’s ability to be an informed citizen, communicate effectively, earn a higher salary, succeed in one’s chosen career, and achieve personal fulfillment. Later in life they also participate more in the community in terms of service and giving back. It is estimated that the cost of illiteracy to business and the taxpayer is $20 billion per year.
If you see the urgency of what I have been saying, I want to invite you to help get a “Bookcase for Every Child” project started in your community. Just go to our website: and it will give you all the information you will need.
(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.)