Twelve-year-old Mathew Flores loves to read, but he doesn’t have any books at home, so he reads newspapers and junk mail instead.
"I asked him about going to the library, and he said he couldn't afford the bus pass," the mailman, Ron Lynch, said. He struck up a conversation with Mathew after the boy asked if Lynch had any extra junk mail for him to read.
Touched by the little boy, Lynch got on Facebook and asked his friends to donate books to Mathew.
The post went viral, getting responses from as far away as India and Australia, and Mathew has more books than he knows what to do with.
Mathew isn’t alone. More than half of low-income families don’t have a single book in the home. And statistics show that even if Mathew never reads a single one of those books, he has a better chance at success in life simply by virtue of having them in his house.
Want to predict how successful a kid is likely to become? Count the number of books in their house. In fact, research shows that the quantity of books in the house is more important in determining a kid’s future success than the father’s education level. Even in the digital age, experts say there’s just no substitute for kids' future success than a good old-fashioned print book.
The good news is that there are plenty of nonprofits dedicated to getting good books into the hands of kids who need them. Dolly Parton runs a charity called the Imagination Library, which sends free books to more than 800,000 kids. Many states have programs like Georgia’s Ferst Foundation for Childhood Literacy, which delivers free books to kids up to 60 times in their childhood. Look around in your area for similar programs that offer free books for kids.
Once the books are in the home, it becomes a domino effect of benefit for the kid. In one study, parents who were given books by their doctor were four times more likely to read those books to their children. Children whose parents read to them are better prepared to excel in school. And the majority of kids — two-thirds — who aren’t reading proficiently by the fourth grade will wind up in jail or on welfare, according to research.
It’s important for all of us that every kid, regardless of their parents’ income level, has access to books. Support book drives and nonprofits that promote childhood literacy in your area. And like Mathew’s mailman friend, when you see a kid hungry to read but starved for books, help them. Research shows that putting a book in a kid’s hand is probably the best thing you can do to help ensure their future.
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