Reading skills begin long before children enter school. Children whose parents have books in the home and read to them have a distinct advantage in school and in life. They tend to do better in school, achieve a higher level of education, graduate from high school and go on to become happy and productive citizens.
I can remember being read to as a child; I count it among my fondest memories.
My Mom, a speech-and-drama major turned 50s housewife, embellished everything she read with thrilling voices and gestures that kept me transfixed. I can still remember her affecting a clipped, high-pitched British accent when she read “The King’s Breakfast” from When We Were Very Young, by A.A. Milne: “The King asked the Queen, and the Queen asked the Dairymaid, ‘Could-we-have-some- but-ter -for- the-royal- slice- of- bread?'”
Dad would sometimes take on the hunched-over limp of a Frankenstein, or recite from memory the slightly ribald “New Hampshire Romance”, which titillated all of us kids because it contained the word ‘bosom’. Oh, those were the days!
I was transported to brave new worlds, listening to poems and songs and bedtime stories. As a result, I have grown to love the written word, and now one of my principal delights is reading to my grandchildren — with the same lilting cadence with the same British accent: “The Queen asked the Dairymaid, the Dairymaid said ‘Cer-tain-ly, I’ll-go-and-tell- the-cow-now- be-fore-she-goes-to-bed.'”
So, this is what I am grateful for today. I was a child that was read to.
Not every child is so lucky. In Jefferson County more than a third of families live in poverty. Their parents are so busy holding things together, many can’t get to the library or afford luxuries like books. In fact, research shows that 61 percent of low-income families have no books at all in their homes for children.
This contributes to a shocking disparity in the development of literacy and language skills. Research shows that children living in poverty hear fewer than a third of the words heard by children from higher-income families and this has significant long-term implications. When extrapolated, these results suggest a 30-million word difference by the time children are five years old. And research since then has revealed that the “word gap” factors into a compounding achievement gap between the poor and the better-off in school and life.
We’d like to change that!
This year, the Jefferson County Library Foundation is raising money to put books in the hands of children and their families, through Library programs like the Traveling Children’s Library and our Summer Reading Club.
If you were read to as a child, if you love and value the written word, if you are filled with gratitude (as I am) for the gifts you’ve been given, won’t you pass it on?
Won’t you donate today for the next generation of children in Jefferson County?
-Rebecca Winning for Jefferson County Public Library, in partnership with Mile High Mamas.