I’ve written many essays for Stage of Life, from playing tennis to my issue with Facebook. But I wouldn’t be able to write my story or express myself without reading. I love reading, from great books like “The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch to the other essays here on Stage of Life. A year ago, I didn’t realize just how important reading was in my life. It just felt like something necessary for school and fun to do when I had time. However, not every child has the means to enjoy books like you or me.
Every year, it is estimated that 35% of children in America start school without the skills needed to read. This lack of early reading ability manifests itself later: in 2009, 68% of 4th grade public school students did not score a proficient reading level. An avid reader for as long as I can remember, I could not believe so many young children could not read, especially in a country like America. Having read over a thousand books in my lifetime, I understand how important literacy skills are for growing children and even adults. Instead of ignoring these facts by reading another great book, I decided to take action.
I contacted Reach Out and Read New Jersey, an organization dedicated to bringing the books to the kids. They operate in conjunction with children’s hospitals throughout the state, encouraging doctors to recommend reading as a part of pediatric care. Through the efforts of parents and volunteers, RORNJ has provided over 4 million books to over 2 million kids. I recruited a few of my friends, and we began collecting books. We received books from friends, family, and local businesses, and even threw some of our own favorite infant books from over a decade ago. In half a year, we collected over 1,500 books and donated them to three hospitals in our area. Though it was a lot of work transporting and documenting all these books, having the chance to give back to the community and share my love of reading was well worth the effort.
Reading means a lot to me and likely all of the people here at Stage of Life. Organizations like Reach Out and Read and Read Across America are dedicated to changing the future of our children, by providing them the tools to learn how to read. I’m still actively collecting books to help others, and I plan to continue this project into 2013. Though I’ll be leaving for college soon, I will be passing on the project to my brother and his friends. I’ve been privileged to drive this project forward and help out hundreds of young children experience the joy of books. But now it’s time to give others the means of giving the gift of reading. For me, driving change in 2013 means not only helping young toddlers learn to love reading, but also inspiring others and encouraging them to be the change they want to see.
Where I found my statistics:http://www.waitingforsuperman.com/action/theme/literacy http://rornj.org/ http://www.scholastic.com/aboutscholastic/communityreadandrise.htm