By Glen Miller | Categories All | Book Deserts | Curriculum | Educators | K-5 Literacy | Learning Loss | Opportunity Gap | Reading Instruction | Results | Summer Reading | November 27, 2020

Many kids survive in a “book desert” without access to books. Let’s rain books onto every child to create a book oasis instead.

Something that provides refuge, relief, or pleasant contrast.” Oh, wait… that’s an oasis. During this current crisis, many of us have spent time creating our own oasis with multiple trips to Home Depot, pouring over Pinterest, and getting a new best-seller every two weeks from Barnes and Noble.

I’ve always been able to create “pleasant contrast” by escaping through the magic of a great book. But what if you’re a second-grader living in a two-bedroom apartment on the sixth floor of a housing project in Philadelphia with your mom, 2 siblings and another family of three. There’s a TV but mom’s boyfriend is in charge of that. You’ve got the basics: food (sort of), air, water, and shelter but where are the books? There ARE no books. Nothing to read or feed your imagination. Nothing for your mind to dream about. No “refuge, relief or pleasant contrast” to your current situation. You’re surviving in a Book Desert.

The Global Book Desert Map sponsored by Unite for Literacy is a grim depiction of our current situation. It also may offer an explanation as to why 79% of low income fourth graders are not proficient in reading. (Annie E. Casey Foundation – 2020) Seventy nine percent. Let that sink in. Whose fault is this, anyway? Let’s pass a law that requires kids to read by third grade. That’ll work, right? It hasn’t yet and this idea continues. Let’s encourage mom to take them to the library and give her a robust (and costly) summer school option; we’ll even send the book bus to the housing project on Thursdays from 9 to 10. Oh, wait… we’ve been doing all of this for decades and still: 79%.

Maybe it’s time to dig deeper into why our kids are struggling. Could access and opportunity possibly have anything to do with it? Mom is working two jobs and relies on public transportation. What if access and opportunity arrived in the mailbox every 10 days? Can a mailbox really be an oasis?

Kids Read Now is committed to making this a reality. Kids create “refuge and relief” by choosing the books that will arrive each week. Mom receives a text (in her native language) with four key comprehension questions to ask. Everyone wins. Join us as we focus on rain not blame. Let’s rain books on to these Book Deserts turning them into an oasis of opportunity and possibility for every child in America, not just the lucky ones.

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