No. 959


A recently released Survey of Adult Skills by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development shows that adults in the United States, despite having higher than average levels of educational attainment have below average basic literacy and numeracy skills. The U.S. ranked 16th out of 23 countries in literacy proficiency, 21st in numeracy proficiency and 14th in problem solving in technology-rich environments. It is no secret that our nation has fallen terribly behind in motivating and teaching our citizens how to read, which is the most basic fundamental skill of all in terms of achieving success.
As the founder of the Bookcase for Every Child project, I am always looking for ideas and concepts that will help get this message across to more of our citizens and enlist the help of others who share my conviction. What I want to share in this column is a basic concept that I am calling “Hitting the Target for Literacy.” One of my basic convictions is that we must reach children at a very early age to get them hooked on reading, as opposed to other things they may get hooked on later. While we have a lot of gadgets on the market today, it is also my conviction that most of these can be counterproductive because they often distract young people from the most important task of learning to read.
Suffice it to say that an individual must learn to read regardless of the form in which the information is presented. The basic foundation for our project is that we “target” those who have the greatest need. Without a doubt, the children reared in low-income families are at the greatest risk of later dropping out of school or life, because they have few (if any) books in the home while growing up. A lady who owns a nursery school where she works with 4- and 5-year-olds told me that many children did not even know how to hold a book.
Here in our community we just presented our 500th personalized bookcase and a starter set of books to Head Start children, and we know that we are making a difference. Another foundational concept of our project is that we strongly believe that a community should hold an annual bookcase banquet fundraiser. We don’t need much money to conduct a local bookcase project, only enough to purchase the wood and supplies to build the bookcases. Everything else is “giving back” and this includes people donating quality, pre-school children’s books.
We will have our 7th annual Bookcase Literacy Banquet later this year. Others in our community, in addition to our great local committee, will help decorate the banquet room, work in the kitchen, contribute homemade desserts and provide the entertainment. On a rotating basis, students from three local high schools serve the meal. Since we started the project in 2005 and the banquets in 2007, we have had between 4,000 and 5,000 of our local people involved in one way or another. This concept creates an awareness of the project and gives everyone, and I do mean everyone, an opportunity to get involved.
While preparing our precious young people to enter our public schools involves so much more than simply giving them a bookcase and some books, this method does create a community awareness that, over time, begins to pay huge dividends. We now have more really good children’s books donated than we can use, because we only give a “starter set” of 10 to 12 books, and the idea is to have parents and grandparents give these children a book for special occasions as they begin to develop their very own personalized library. This is when it really begins to mean something. Again the idea is “Hitting the Target for Literacy.” Hope you will get involved.
(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.)