No. 631



There is a story about this family who moved to a new community and promptly enrolled their little girl in the fourth grade. After a few weeks she brought her first report card home. She said, “Dad, would you please sign this report card with an ‘X’ and maybe they won’t expect so much from me.”
There is an old saying that goes, “In life, we get just about what we expect. If we don’t expect much, we won’t get much.” There is a lot of truth in old sayings. This is the reason they get to be old. Here it might be appropriate to ask you this question: Do you have high expectations for yourself and for those you care about, be they family members, friends, associates and even fellow Americans?
According to the dictionary, the word ‘expect,’ the root word for expectations, means, “To look forward to as certain or probable and to look for as right, proper and necessary.” When it comes to individuals, there are some people in our nation who have much higher expectations than others. For example, a child who is born to parents who are both college professors will have much higher expectations than a child born into a family who has labored in generational poverty for many years. In time, as a young child grows up, he begins to develop a set of expectations of his own. This child is influenced by his environment, which is to say the level of education, communication and the results of spiritual and material success which is all around him.
Here I might add that a child develops a level of expectations, but his parents also have a level of expectations they have developed for him. This is really where the rubber meets the road. If the parent’s expectations are too high, and unrealistic, the child may find it difficult to live up to them, and a great deal of stress is created in his life. How many times have we all seen this happen? However, in most cases the expectations are too low, because most of us can achieve far more than we have ever dreamed possible. There is a special group of young people in our country who I am truly concerned about, not only for their security and well-being, but also for the future of our country.
A group of your fellow citizens have been working for some time to build quality, personalized oak bookcases and give them, along with a starter set of books, to children in low-income families. These children are all enrolled in a local Head Start program, or another program with a similar name. A high percentage of these children are also in single-parent homes and as a result of their environment, the level of expectations is quite low. In time, with all of us working together, we hope to change that, first by encouraging the parents and these special children.
This past year more than a million students who should have graduated did not graduate from our nation’s high schools. We believe it is a realistic goal to expect each of these Head Start children, with the exception of those who die at an early age for a variety of reasons, to graduate at least from high school. Of course, many will go on to college and graduate with a degree, but it is not realistic to expect all of them to graduate from college. It is realistic for them to graduate from high school. This is what we will be working to achieve: to sell to the parents of these children to have higher expectations. As I said earlier, they can do far more than they have ever dreamed at this point in their life.
It is important to note that this is a grass-roots, all volunteer effort and we do not use any tax money or government grants. We are just regular ordinary citizens who care about these children and want the best for them. I might add, the Head Start people have been wonderful to work with because we have the same goals. One of the things we are exploring is to have parents who would like to be part of a study group, and whose child receives a bookcase, make a commitment to read to their children at home on a regular basis and to buy them a new book for special occasions, such as their birthday and at Christmas time.
One of our committee members has already talked with our local school officials about ways to track these children who enter kindergarten and begin to move up through the various grades. At this point we are also talking with our university people about a graduate student who will help develop a “model” for criteria, to help us not only here in our community but in others across the nation who are also conducting a “Bookcase for Every Child” project.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a public speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034. To support literacy, buy his book: “Learning, Earning & Giving Back.”)