(Family Features) Reading is a foundation for learning, yet a vast gap exists in access to books for low-income neighborhoods.
According to the Handbook of Literacy Research, in low-income neighborhoods, the ratio of books per child is just one age-appropriate book for every 300 children. Without books in the home, children lack the opportunity to practice reading skills and are exposed to fewer opportunities to build their vocabularies.
While these limitations can hinder personal performance, multiple studies correlate low literacy rates with social concerns like elevated drop-out rates, reliance on welfare programs and criminal activity.
Literacy is a cause that affects the community as a whole. Learn how you can champion literacy in your community with these tips:
Give books to children
The joy of receiving and opening a gift is exciting in its own right, but a book is a gift that keeps giving. You can make a book gift extra special by choosing a topic or theme that has special meaning, such as a place you’d like to visit together or a beloved character you enjoy incorporating into your make-believe playtime with the child. As a bonus, if it’s age appropriate, read the book together for the first time so it always carries a special memory.
Visit the library
Libraries can be awe-inspiring places for kids. The wall-to-wall books represent thousands of possibilities. With so many options to choose from, you can introduce children to the delight of discovering different genres, enchanting topics and favorite authors who keep you coming back for more.
When children have their own library cards, they can practice the grown-up process of checking out and caring for books. What’s more, honoring due dates helps teach responsibility. Marking that date on the calendar is a fun way to build anticipation toward the next visit.
Support organizations that promote literacy
Conducting your business with companies that share your commitment to literacy is a way to inspire reading on a larger scale. One example is The UPS Store, which created the Toys for Tots Literacy Program in partnership with the Marine Toys for Tots Foundation to provide disadvantaged children with direct access to books and educational resources that enhance their ability to read and communicate effectively. You can donate at participating locations or contribute online.
Create reading-inspired traditions
Children thrive on routines and rituals, and incorporating books into special moments can be an especially effective way to establish positive connections with books and the joy of reading. At home, traditions might be as simple as bedtime stories or reading parties where the whole family dons pajamas early and gathers in a room to read together, whether quietly or out loud. You can also tie reading traditions to special celebrations, like reading a favorite story together before heading to bed on the eve of a birthday or holiday.
Participate in events supporting literacy
Show your support by attending and participating in events that showcase the importance of reading. Examples might include book fairs and fundraisers for literacy programs in your community. You can also look into programs offered through your local library and community center. If you find a shortage of events in your area, consider creating one of your own, such as visiting a local senior living center and reading to residents or hosting a book swap or book club with your friends and neighbors.
Encourage kids to get hands-on
Reading a book is one way to demonstrate literacy, but kids can also develop a love for reading and put their comprehension skills into practice by adapting their favorite stories for playtime. That might mean acting out a different ending for a favorite story or drawing a picture from a scene they remember best. You can also promote literacy by encouraging kids to write songs or their own short stories, which they can illustrate for a finished book to share with others.
Start a neighborhood library
Recognizing not all kids have access to books at home, you can help promote an interest in reading by creating a mini library within your neighborhood. Create a small structure that will protect books from the elements and spread the word that the contents are free for the taking. Encourage users to return books when they’re done so another child can enjoy them and invite neighbors to donate their gently used books to help fill your library.
Model good reading habits for kids
Children learn from the examples set by trusted grown-ups. Sharing your love of reading with a child demonstrates you value learning and education. You can encourage children to mimic your interest in reading by sharing stories about the books you enjoyed most when you were their age and choosing to spend quiet time reading together in place of screen time.
For more tips and information on how you can support literacy, visit theupsstore.com/literacy.
Photos courtesy of Getty Images
The UPS Store