“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.”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:
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.