2022 Equity Challenge Day 14: Literacy in Education – Increasing Access to Books to Create a More Reading Proficient Region

“Acquiring literacy is an empowering process, enabling millions to enjoy access to knowledge and information which broadens horizons, increases opportunities and creates alternatives for building a better life.”

Kofi Annan

former United Nations Secretary General and Nobel Peace Prize Winner

Literacy is the ability to read and write. Learning to read in the first years of primary school is critical for retention and success in future grades. Literacy is the cornerstone of development. It leads to better health, better employment opportunities, and safer and more stable societies.  

According to the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP), 32 percent of fourth-grade students in Michigan are proficient readers. In Detroit, 7 percent of them are proficient readers. 

The most successful way to improve the reading achievement of low-income children is to increase their access to print. Communities ranking high in achievement tests have several factors in common: an abundance of books in public libraries, easy access to books in the community at large and a large number of textbooks per student. 

In our region, 61 percent of children live in neighborhoods that lack public libraries and stores that sell books, or in homes where books are an unaffordable or unfamiliar luxury. These can be considered “book deserts” —geographic areas that lack consistent access to high-quality, affordable print children’s books. One-hundred books is the threshold for being considered a print-rich environment. 

How book deserts impact our region: 

  •  In Wayne County, only 19 percent of households have 100 or more books.  
  • In Oakland County, 36 percent have 100 or more books.  
  • In Macomb County, 34 percent have 100 or more books. 

Today’s challenge will explore a few of the root causes of inequitable access to print books that impacts a child’s development and creates book deserts.  




  • Volunteer to build a DIY Learning at Home Kit that supports book access for families in our region. Get your neighbors, friends and family involved by hosting a supplies drive!  
  • Support a local bookstore in your area or shop with Bookshop to support local and independent bookstores. 
  • Join United Way, HOPE Pontiac and the Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness for a virtual town hall on Housing Rights and Justice at 10 a.m. on June 15. Click here for more information.

Reflect And Share

  1. What is one take-away you have from today?
  2. Think about your own educational experience, or the education of a child in your life. What are some inequities or effects of inequity you can identify?
  3. How do you see access to books as an equity issue?
  4. What material from today do you still have questions about or want to learn more about? What are ways you can further explore these questions?


Start the conversation. Send the tweet. Share your story. Make the Facebook post. Sharing what you learn and experience with your family, friends, and co-workers is the first step toward allyship.

Join thousands in conversation by using hastag #EquityChallenge or #TakeTheEC22