193,000 children, aged 5 to 17, were living in poverty in New Jersey in 2009. (National Center for Education Statistics.)
“Limited access to books is a problem for all young children, but for those in low-income areas, it may be tantamount to reading failure.” (Susan Neuman, Access for All: Closing the Book Gap for Children in Early Education, International Reading Association, (2001).)
Fourth graders who reported having 25 books or more at home had higher scores on the NAEP reading test than children who reported that they had fewer than 25 books. (NCES, (2005).)
“If more access leads to more reading, and if more reading leads to better reading, writing, spelling, grammar, and a larger vocabulary, this means that the first step any literacy campaign needs to take is to make sure children have access to plenty of books.”( Stephen Krashen, Literacy Network News, (2007).
To participate fully in society and the workplace in 2020, citizens will need powerful literacy abilities that until now have been achieved by only a small percentage of the population. (National Council on Teachers of English Standards for the English Language Arts)
One of the things I came to realize last year as my son went through Kindergarten was how incredibly blessed my children are. While we are by no means wealthy and often times we wish we could do more for our children. We are able to give them what they need and give them experiences they might not ordinarily have. (Thankfully, blogging helps with that.) And as events came and went last year at my son’s school, my heart ached over the thought that not only were some kids not able to participate in those events, but there not being able to participate was probably causing them more hurt. No child should have to feel excluded because of situations beyond their control. I wanted to be able to change that. I began to find ways to help. I created my own Random Acts of Kindness or opportunities to Pay it Forward. I hope to share them with you throughout this school year, not to pat myself on the back, but rather to inspire you to do the same for other children in your child’s class. (Because it’s a small way that you can Make a Difference, you’ll find these articles in our Make A Difference and School Days Sunday column.)
The book fair, every year it comes to our school, twice a year. Classes go together to view the selection of books. Students create a wish list to send home to their parents. Parents send the kids back into school with money. After all, we all want to encourage them to read. Then, throughout the week, kids will go back and forth to the book fair buying up books from their lists. They come back to the classroom with big smiles on their faces and bags of books in their hands, all of them, except for the one child, whose family doesn’t have the money to buy a book.
That child is sitting in his class with his heart slightly-broken, he knows why he can’t buy a book, but does he really understand? Everyday when the teacher sends kids down to buy their books he is further reminded that he’s not going to get one. His classmates, excited about their books, want to talk about their new books they question him about why he didn’t get any. What’s the child to do? His classmates are too young to understand. They don’t know their excitement maybe making him upset. It’s not fair!
These are the thoughts that can keep me up at night. Life can be cruel for a child. I didn’t want any of my son’s classmates to feel that way. So last year, I sent in a note and some money in an envelope to my son’s teacher. I explained to her that if it seemed some children were not going to be able to buy a book, she should give them some of this money so they could. I did not want the names of the children. I simply wanted to spare any child the pain of being left out and I wanted them to be able to have their own books so they too could be excited for reading. I did not tell my son what I was doing. He will have other opportunities to see our values in place and this was not a situation I wanted him talking about in school.
The Book Fair will soon be arriving in your school. This year, I will continue the tradition with two boys in school. I ask, that if you can, you start this own little tradition for your child’s classmates. There will be no awards, no certificates of appreciation, and no pats on the back. But there will be one more kid smiling in your child’s class, one more parent who will feel blessed, and your heart will be touched knowing you made it happen.
Thank you and God bless,