By MAREN GOFF
As the weather gets cooler and the leaves start to change, the arrival of fall can be felt in the air. At the end of summer store shelves begin to fill with crisp new folders and notebooks, packs of pens and pencils, and crayons of every color. With fall preparations heavily under way, it’s not just stores that are gearing up for back-to-school activities; children of all ages are often engrossed with anticipation over the coming school year and the opportunities that they hold. The month of September marks the transition back into an educational setting for students and families; September also marks the beginning of National Literacy Month.
As Miss Baxter 2012, I have made a commitment to serving my community by promoting my platform, “Reading Rocks: Promoting Children’s Literacy while Making Reading Fun”, with dedication throughout my year. As a young woman who takes pride in the value of education and the importance of reading I am thoroughly saddened by the striking literacy statistics of our time. Today in the United States less than half of young children under the age of 5 are read to, or engaged in reading activities on a daily basis. This statistic is much more common among low-income families due to the fact that less than 61 percent of these children have access to age appropriate literature or reading material in the home. These children are then put at an automatic social and academic disadvantage because they were never able to develop a positive association with books and reading. This lack of acceptance, exposure and encouragement commonly leads difficulty with school and academic failure which can perpetuate the cycles of poverty, juvenile delinquency and teen pregnancy. Today 85 percent of juvenile and 60 percent of adult prison inmates are functionally illiterate.
Literacy is truly the cornerstone of education; it fosters language and cognitive development as well as motivation and curiosity. Without the ability to read children cannot make strides in other aspects of education. During National Literacy Month we all have the opportunity to celebrate the joys the reading, and to instill this enthusiasm for literacy and learning into the children of the community. The best way for parents and families to get involved is to make sure that time is set aside each day for nurturing and individualized reading out loud; when children have an adult role model read to them it can help promote a positive association with books. Other ways to inspire children to read include reading activities such as word games, theatrical reenactments, and other engaging story related games and activities. During the month of September I encourage parents to make a habit of visiting local libraries, and reading to their children.
As back to school approaches and children are sent once again into the classroom let’s make an effort to bring literacy into our homes. Every child deserves the right to read and to be read to; during National Literacy Month we can harness the positive energy of back to school to create encouragement and support for the goal of a literate community. It’s as easy as picking up a book, and as simple as reading to a child.