No. 526



Here is a trick question I would like to invite you to ponder with me a few minutes. Have you ever seen a new building that was being constructed with the foundation built on the top? If you have, you are ahead of me. All the buildings, new or old, that I have ever seen, the foundation was on the bottom. This is a thought I would like to use as a basis for discussing a very important topic: Literacy in your community. If you live in a university or college town, the odds are good that the literacy rate is much higher than if you live in a town or community where one or more institutions of higher learning are not present.
If you don't think literacy is important, I can tell you the first thing a new industry or major employer looks for when considering building a plant or expanding an existing one is the quality of education in the community. There is no substitute for good, quality schools and even better if there is a college, university or trade or technical programs offered. It does not take a rocket scientist to understand that plentiful and high-paying jobs not only improve the quality of life, but also mean that students who graduate from these institutions do not have to leave the community or the state to find a good job.
To be sure, there are many people in every community working to improve literacy, but allow me to tell you about an approach we are using here in our community that may be of some value to you. A group of business, professional and community leaders are building quality oak bookcases and giving them to children of low-income families. National statistics say that 61 percent of low-income families do not have any books in their home. So in addition to giving these children a personalized bookcase, we are also giving them a "starter set" of books. We call these "gently used" books, and the good people in our community are donating them.
After building 50 bookcases, and before a single one was given out, we already have more than 5,000 books contributed, which will supply as many as 250 bookcases. Our next step is to develop a plan for college students looking for community service and seniors who have the time and a love for children, to read to them on a regular basis. We want these young children to develop a passion for reading and to prepare them for academic success in school. What I have talked about up to this point is building a solid foundation, beginning with the very young and those who have few books in their home, where there is a great need.
To continue, let's build another floor to our mythical building. What I want to recommend is that parents who are in the middle and upper income brackets either build or purchase a bookcase for their children, as well. Yes, some children have a bookcase of their own, but many do not. However, they all have a television set, and in most cases this does not improve literacy. I saw a report on CBS Television a while back that the average child spends four hours a day watching television, one hour on video games and one hour on the computer. How about talking on a cell phone?
At one time our country led the world in reading, math and science. Today we rank 18th out of 21 industrialized nations in these important skills. There are many reasons why this is true, but a child does not have to be able to read to watch television, listen to music, dance, play video games or throw, kick or bounce a ball. I love sports, but I feel strongly that in most cases a child's future is not well served by spending a disproportionate amount of time in sports. This is especially true in light of this fact: The NCAA reports there are 350,000 student athletes in America, and 95 percent of them will be turning pro in something other than sports. Now I may not get a lot of AMENS here, but at least it's something to think about.
When you think about buying your children something special in the future, why not buy them a good book?
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034.)