#NWARKCares blogger, Keisha Pittman – BigPittStop – asked on Instagram “When did you learn to read?” Do you even remember? I do. Vividly. My brother was obsessed with teaching me to read. He started with a Doctor Doolittle cardboard puzzle in a tray that had 26 pieces. He put the a letter of the alphabet on each one and would make me match them up a-z without looking at the picture side. I remember doing it over and over when I was 3 on the floor of his bedroom, which, because he was a teenager, was usually off limits to me.
Then he took the large print King James Bible that was my grandmothers and started me reading from that. He would underline each word that I started to recognize until full verses were read/memorized.
After that we moved on to Shirley Temple songs. I can still, if asked, sing Animal Crackers. Don’t ask, please. He had the sheet music and we would read/sing along together. I was like a living doll to him, I think.
Reading was essential in my house because it was a means of escape. I would spend hours at the library as a preteen looking for the perfect book. This was way before the huge YA sections that they have now. So you had to pick through the adult fiction and the kids section to find something that was perfect for a precocious 12 year old.
My husband calls me the Supreme Book Reader of the World. Not a bad title. I read about 2-3 books, fiction and nonfiction, a week. I used to put them all in Goodreads, but I read too fast and I don’t really care about a record. I read just about everything except horror or violent thrillers – life is scary enough I don’t need that in my head. Now that I have my iPad I always have a book with me because I download the free collection from the Eureka Springs Public Library – a pretty sweet tool. I also, when I am super hooked on a series – hello, Percy Jackson and St. Mary’s – will buy downloads from Amazon. Plus, I buy books still and check out actual paper copies from the library. I don’t know what I would do without my library ladies, actually, they are my research and development for most of my life. If I get interested in a topic I will interlibrary loan tons of books on the subject. I sometimes wonder what they think. They are much to discrete to say!
Why does all of this matter?
1 in 4 children can’t read in the US. In Arkansas, children from poverty income level households might not have any books in their homes. That lack of reading material will stop them from reaching their full potential. They plan prisons by how many illiterate children enter fourth grade. This is serious stuff and we all can do something about it. This isn’t someone else’s problem – this is our problem. If we aren’t setting up 100% of kids to be successful in school and life we are failing. Books are an easy solution.
Literacy Statistics in Arkansas: In 2003, the National Center for Education Statistics estimated that 13% of the adult population of Washington County was lacking in basic prose literacy skills. They found 12% of the population similarly affected in Benton County, 14% in Sebastian County and 15% in Madison County.
Here are 6 ways you can help literacy in your community.
- Contact your local elementary school and see if they need books donated.
- Contact your local library and see if they need books donated, readers for after school programs, or donations to reading programs in the area.
- Buy the Free Little Library Book and they will donate $150 worth of books for a Free Little Library by you. Free Little Libraries are always in need of children’s books. You can look at the site to find these cute little libraries in your neighborhood.
- Contact your local literacy council. In Northwest Arkansas it is the Ozark Literacy Council, but you can google the council in your area. They will have a variety of ways to donate money, time and books to help with their cause.
- Contact your local food bank and see if they could use a children’s story reader during peak times to help parents do the shopping they need while the kids are supervised.
- Volunteer at a women and family shelter to read to the kiddo’s or donate books. You could, with your book club, make sure that every kid that enters gets a book of their own. Ownership is a big deal to kids in transition.
I love to read. It is my number one pleasure and I am grateful that my brother wanted to teach his living doll this skill. His vision of me as a reader has far exceeded Shirley Temple and Doctor Doolittle puzzles!
#NWARKCares is a project of the Northwest Arkansas Bloggers. Each month this dynamic group of writers, podcasters, vloggers, and social media pros are tackling an issue and the resources to make a difference right here in our corner of the state. You can follow along on Twitter. Are you a blogger in Northwest Arkansas Carroll, Madison, Washington or Benton Counties? You can join our efforts here!