Poverty has a profound impact on literacy development. Children of poverty, in addition to the obvious problems they face, often enter kindergarten lacking the foundational skills critical for learning to read. Significantly behind other children in developing pre-reading skills such as knowledge of letters and their sounds, left to right eye movement, concepts of print, rhyming, sequencing, etc. children from low-income homes make less progress in developing literacy.
Studies show children need daily at-home experiences with books to increase their exposure to the written word, literature, and a variety of informational topics, concepts, and vocabulary. The development of early literacy skills through early experiences with books and stories is directly linked to a child’s success in learning to read. The ability to read, and read well, has a direct correlation to future life successes.
However, children’s books, though critical to a child’s literacy development, are a luxury for many local families. Parents living at or below the federal poverty line constantly make difficult choices between food, rent, utilities, and health care, with little left over for books. The harsh reality is that two thirds of low-income families own no books for their children.
With nearly one in five urban preschoolers living below the federal poverty level, the need for books is huge. Tens of thousands of books are needed to surround our most vulnerable children with books during their early years of development. Gathering 100,000 picture books from the community would provide 5,000 young children with twenty books to call their own and would give parents the tools they need to help their children develop the early literacy skills needed to become successful readers and learners.