No. 427


From time to time a question comes to my mind that you may be able to help me answer. The question is this. Am I too idealistic? This question surfaced again early one morning this past week, as I was lying in bed and got to thinking about the literacy problem in our country. If you can read, write and do basic math computations, you are a very blessed person. I say this because over 20 percent of all the people in our nation cannot perform even these basic skills. This is tragic for these individuals, because of the resulting low self-esteem and the inability to secure and hold down a good paying job. This is also sad for the rest of us who can read and write and hold down good paying jobs, because we have to take up the slack for them.

But more than that, it is tragic for thousands of communities across America, which does not have a labor pool of skilled high-tech workers who can help to attract new industry and high paying jobs to the area. With few high paying jobs, the standard of living is lowered and everyone suffers. Back to my question of being too idealistic for a moment. I have an idea that I believe could be the solution to part of this problem. My new book, ãLearning, Earning & Giving Backä is now off the press and the enthusiasm is building for many newspapers to sell the book to earn extra income for their NIE (Newspaper In Education) programs and other related projects.

I am giving back $9 of the $15.95 purchase price to this cause and state press associations across the nation will also receive a portion of this money to provide scholarships for journalism students. Since there are many more weekly and small daily newspapers in the country that do not have an NIE program, my question is ÎHow can we get these people involved also?ä To my way of thinking, the newspaper people hold the keys to helping millions of Americans who are illiterate. When people canât read, they sure donât buy a newspaper.

Here is my point. By being directly involved in doing something about the literacy problem on a regular and on-going basis, the newspaper will gain new subscribers and the community gains new people who can work, develop skills and contribute to the economy, both locally and nationally. Here is my idea. After you read it, let me know if you think I am too idealistic or if you believe itâs a good idea and you are willing to become involved.

First, your local newspaper can promote and sell my book to earn $6 for each copy. This money can be used to start or expand a literacy project for people in your community. Then, because everyone in your community has a stake, there are no doubt many corporate and business people in the private sector (no tax money allowed) who would be willing to match the money the paper earns to further establish a literacy program. In most cases, a local newspaper is short staffed and always under deadlines, so I am not advocating more work for these people other than selling the books, helping to secure a Literacy Coordinator and promoting it in their paper.

The next step would be to recruit Literacy Tutors and to identify those individuals who want and need help in learning to read. In every community there are retired teachers, executives, professional people and others who want to do something to give back, and feel good about doing it. In our community we have more people who volunteer to serve others than any place I have ever known and I bet you have them, too. What I am advocating is a small hourly stipend for volunteers to offset their cost of transportation, snacks and other out-of- pocket expenses, so it wonât be a financial burden to them.

The days of the week, times and a place to hold tutoring sessions would be worked out by each community and your local schools would probably be willing to help out here as well. We all know that every community, some more than others, has a problem when it comes to literacy, but in final analysis what are we going to do about it? Personally, I believe we can do a lot about it and to everyoneâs benefit. If newspapers are willing to get involved by selling books and promoting the literacy program, if corporations and business people are willing to provide matching funds and stipend paid volunteers are willing to give back, to their community, I believe it can work.

Please give this idea some thought and if you believe it has merit, talk with your newspaper publisher and other leaders in your community. Share your feelings and ideas and let it be known that you are willing to help to do something about the literacy problem. Drop me a note; as well. I would be honored to hear from you. There are lots of good volunteer programs around, but in the long run there are few more important than this. You can help. Remember, it is better to light one small candle than to curse the darkness. (Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034.)