This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post Impact, available here.
Anyone who read a book as a child knows the power of a good piece of literature. Whether it's a fictional adventure to imaginary lands, a biographical piece with lessons from history, or something entirely different, a book has the power to spark curiosity, introduce innovation, and open opportunity.
Unfortunately, for too many kids in low-income communities, a good read is out of reach. Families lack books at home, with as many as 60 percent of low-income households not having a single book to read to their children. Schools and public libraries in low-income communities are short on resources as well, with 80 percent of education programs having no books at all for the children they serve. In those neighborhoods, there can be as few as one age-appropriate book for every 300 children. In the absence of interesting and informative books, consistent reading to and by children fades, impacting their cognitive development from a very early age.
As a result, children head to school without the proper foundation to flourish. By the age of 4, children from low-income communities have heard 30 million fewer words than their peers in middle- and upper-class families. This "word gap" impacts their future achievement, both in the early, critical years of school and throughout their life. By the fourth grade, more than 80 percent of children from low-income families fail to score "proficient" in reading on national exams, and at this point in their life, minority students who cannot read are twice as likely as their white peers to not finish high school. Children who cannot read on grade level skip school, too afraid or embarrassed to risk reading aloud in front of their peers. Year after year, these young people fall further and further behind until it ultimately becomes easier to drop out than to catch up.
Having books on the shelves of homes, classrooms, libraries, and community centers alone won't solve all our education challenges, but coupled with literacy programs and family engagement, it is one of the first, basic steps we can take to ensure all children are prepared to succeed academically. Read Notebooks launched to help support this effort. Through a social enterprise model, we work to build awareness about the importance of reading and provide direct support by donating a storybook to a child in need for every Read Notebook sold. We focus on local communities in New York City, where our notebooks are designed and produced, and we look forward to reaching other communities across the country and around the world as we grow. Through our sustainable model, and by working with partners in the education, publishing, and creative industries, we hope to ensure all children have the most basic tools to excel in their academic pursuits.
So today, on Giving Tuesday, I hope you'll consider giving a child the gift of a book and the joy of reading. Whether it's through Read Notebooks, donating books to your local school or library, reading to a classroom in your community, or supporting one of the many great organizations working on literacy and early childhood development, giving a child a book can be one of the best ways to help them live their life story to the fullest.
By Aaron Kinnari, Founder, Read Notebooks