No. 841



Literacy is perhaps our most critical skill. It can mean the difference between a life well lived and a life of hardship. Unfortunately, more than 93 million Americans read at or below a basic level -- with 30,000 in Central Arkansas alone struggling with the burden of illiteracy every day.
These words were taken from a brochure I picked up recently when Kelly Bullington, local representative for Literacy Action of Central Arkansas, spoke to our Lions Club. Kelly, a graduate of the University of Kansas, was articulate and very knowledgeable, but the thing that stood out the most for me was the obvious passion she had for her work and helping illiterate adults learn to read. That’s what I like to see. If a person is not passionate about what they do, how can they expect others to help or support them, which was the primary reason she was there.
As founder of the Bookcase for Every Child project, it was only natural that I would have a sincere interest in the work she is doing. We chatted after the meeting and both agreed it would be great if our bookcase project could put them out of business. We both know this will never happen. There were a couple of items in her handout literature that I consider as crucial to a child’s future success, and I would like to pass along that information.
First, a mother’s reading skill is the greatest determinant of her children’s future academic success, outweighing other factors such as neighborhood and family income (U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services, 2010). Second, children whose parents are involved with them in family literacy activities score 10 points higher on standardized tests (National Center for Family Literacy, 2006).
Over the past several weeks, I have been thinking about writing a column with the theme, ‘The real world keeps score.” Kelly’s talk really reinforced just how true this is. While there are many reasons why we have 93 million adults in America today who read below a basic level, this number would be much lower had literacy been a top priority in the homes of these adults back when they were children. We have millions of children in America today who don’t like to read and, as a result, don’t read well. Sadly, many will wind up as a statistic, and someone who missed out on most of the great opportunities that come their way.
What I am going to say next is not meant to be a panacea, but there is a question that millions of children never ask themselves when they are involved in countless activities they are passionate about. I have two beautiful granddaughters. One is a beauty queen, having been in the Miss Arkansas Pageant this past year, and the other is very popular and a fantastic dancer, and it would seem that she has a bright future. Because they are still both very young, only time will reveal how successful they become in the real world where it really counts because, if they live to the normal life expectancy, they still have more than 50 years before them.
Here is that question: can I make a living at this? The real world keeps score and many young people never think about this until they find themselves on a dead-end street. After school and college they have no real goals, no direction and, in many cases, no job or career path. While money is certainly not everything, it is important in today’s society. In many cases these young people will take any job just to get by, but they miss the joy of personal success. The question “Can I Make a Living At It” should be at least a part of our thinking when we are having fun and spending time doing things we love to do.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a public speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034. To begin a bookcase literacy project Visit You won’t go wrong helping a needy child.)