By Jim Davidson
We seldom see literacy mentioned in the news, either local or national, yet it is one of the greatest needs we have in our society. What I hope to accomplish in this article, is to make a case why every literate American should be involved in promoting literacy as a way to improve the lives of millions of people, and to improve our nation’s standing in the competitive world marketplace.
To authenticate what I am saying, please consider the following statistics and information given by Conway Chief of Police A.J. Gary, and Kathy Powers, 2011 Arkansas Teacher of the Year, at our recent Ninth Annual Awards Ceremony. Chief Gary said: “Researchers estimate that every $1 invested in early childhood education, provides $16 in economic benefits, primarily from reduced crime and welfare expenditures. One long-term study of Michigan’s Perry Preschool followed two groups of at-risk, low-income three and four-year-olds. By age 40 the kids who did not attend Perry Preschool were four times more likely to be arrested for drug felonies and twice as likely to be arrested for violent crimes when compared to those who participated in the study.
You could write a dozen books and still not cover all the facts and statistics that belie “common sense,” to understand the importance and value of teaching young pre-school children how to read, even before they enter the process of a formal education. After all, these children are America’s future.
To begin, our project is copyrighted because it has proven to be successful after much experience and trial and error. Without copyright protection many people or groups will want to take the easy way, get a source of funding, and just build bookcases and give them, along with books, to children. But this is definitely not the best way, as you will see.
There are some people who really need to be on this committee because of their position or career in the community. A great committee needs the Director of the Head Start or ABC program in the community since they have the low-income family children we want to serve. You need the publisher or editor of your local newspaper, along with a representative from radio and television stations in your area because publicity will be vital for your success.
You will need a literacy-minded pastor of a large church because its members can help in a variety of ways. You will need a literacy-minded banker who can serve as your treasurer. You will never have a large amount of money -- all you need is just enough to build the bookcases each year. Everything else is “giving back.” You will need a couple of retired teachers who have a reading background to get involved in reading, sorting books, and getting others involved.
This project may appear large and foreboding but it’s really not when you consider that each Central Committee member has a specific role to play and they have the option to form as many sub-committees as needed, and recruit as many people as necessary to get the job done.
All the information to start a project can be found on our website and I have numerous newspaper articles and forms that will be most helpful in starting a project that I will be happy to send to any person who is serious about getting a project started in his or her community. I also have a DVD of our latest awards ceremony that I will also be happy to share.