Help Improve Literacy on International Literacy Day

Can you IMAGINE not being able to read? How does someone function in this technologically advanced society without reading skills? Would you be able to do it? Today is Literacy Day…

Giving Back Through Literacy & Reading to Kids

Where The Wild Things Are

As entrepreneurs and business people – or really, as humans – it’s important to give back to our communities. Some people choose to donate money to good causes, which is greatly needed. Others may decide to give in a more hands on way. When I started Zen Rabbit, I dropped the volunteer activities I had been involved in to devote all my time and energy to the business. The plan was to donate a portion of profits to a few causes, so I would still be giving back. Now six years later, I decided to go back to some actual hands-on service.

I’ve always loved reading and have long been involved with literacy organizations. Can you IMAGINE not being able to read? How does one even function in our society without this crucial skill? If you’ve always associated with people who are readers, you may find it hard to believe…

  • One child in four grows up not knowing how to read (National Assessment of Adult Literacy)
  • More than 20 percent of adults read at or below a fifth-grade level – far below the level needed to earn a living wage. (National Institute for Literacy)
  • 44 million adults in the U.S. can’t read well enough to read a simple story to a child. (National Adult Literacy Survey (1992) NCED, U.S. Department of Education)
  • 21 million Americans can’t read at all, 45 million are marginally illiterate and one-fifth of high school graduates can’t read their diplomas. (Department of Justice)
  • Nearly half of America’s adults are poor readers, or “functionally illiterate.” They can’t carry out simply tasks like balancing a checkbook, reading drug labels or writing essays for a job. (National Adult Literacy Survey)

So when I decided to get involved again, it was just a matter of finding an organization that was a good fit with my time and energy. Earlier in the year, I had started conversation on Twitter with Rich Greif, Executive Director of Everybody Wins! – a national organization that provides reading enrichment programs for young children through schools. But Everybody Wins! doesn’t have a program in my area yet.

Then I went to a tweet-up (where people on Twitter meet and network in person) and met children’s librarian Jeanne Taylor. She told me about the Let’s Read program run by the West Palm Beach Public Library. Volunteers go into classrooms around the downtown area and read to the kindergarten, first and second grade kids for 30 minutes once a week.

The new semester was starting right away and I got one of the last classrooms still available. I absolutely LOVE the first graders I share stories with every week. They are extremely appreciative of story time, as is their teacher. Can I tell you how touched I was to get a round of applause after reading “Where the Wild Things Are” last week?

A typical middle class child enters first grade with approximately 1,000 hours of being read to, while the corresponding child from a low-income family averages just 25 of those hours, such differences in the availability of book resources may have unintended and pernicious consequences for low-income children’ long term success in schooling. M. Adams, Beginning to read. (MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 1990).

The thing is, when you’re completely involved in the joy of doing for someone else’s benefit, you’re not thinking about where the money is coming from to pay your credit card this month. You’re immersed in the moment, living in the now, right where all the experts tell us our power is.

So during this month of gratitude, think about taking the focus off yourself and your business and putting attention to someone who needs your support.