Why Books Matter

Reading is the key that unlocks the world.

Think for a moment how profound it is that you can read these words – and how critically important reading is to every aspect of your life, from checking the dosage on a prescription, to completing a job application, to voting in an election. Reading is a skill most of us take for granted, but unfortunately, that's not true for millions of children living in poverty in America.

Forty-two percent of children in the United States – more than 30 million – live in low-income households. Most of these children have no age-appropriate books at home, and the classrooms and programs they attend are woefully under-resourced. Approximately two-thirds of these schools and programs cannot afford to buy books.

Children who are illiterate or have minimal literacy skills have poor educational, employment, and health outcomes. Many will not graduate from high school. As adults, they will earn barely enough to stay above poverty levels, and are more likely to engage in criminal and anti-social behaviors. Over their lifetimes, they will cost the US more than a quarter of a million dollars each.

61% of low-income families have no books at all for their children.

80% of the pre-schools and after school programs serving children in need do not have a single book for the children they serve.

In some of the lowest-income neighborhoods in the country there is only one book available for every 300 children.

Children from low-income families lack early interactions that lead to language development including being read to by adults. A Packard and MacArthur Foundation report found that the average child growing up in a middle class family has been exposed to 1,000 to 1,700 hours of one-on-one picture book reading before entering school. The average child growing up in a low-income family, however, has only been exposed to 25 hours of one-on-one reading during this same time period.

Literacy is the solution. Literacy is one of the best predictors of a child’s success both in school and throughout life. The single strongest indicator of a child's future reading ability has proven to be surprisingly straightforward: the number of books in the home.

Putting books in the hands of children in need makes a difference:

Receiving books increases children’s interest in reading and desire to learn. Multiple studies have found that "high interest in reading" triples among children who received new books. More than 70% of children who receive books reported increased reading at home. 69% of program administrators found being given new books was "very important" in children’s decisions to read more and improve their reading skills.

Our books improve literacy in the home by reaching the entire family. We give books to every child in the family, from infants to teens, and even send pregnant women home with what will be their child’s first book. These books enable families to create their own home libraries for the very first time. Studies confirm that the number of books in the home directly predicts reading achievement.

Book ownership builds pride and self-esteem. When we give books, children experience the thrill and the pride of owning something brand new, chosen especially for them. These children feel valued. They know they matter. Their self-worth is boosted by the individual attention lavished on them by our caring volunteers, including big hugs and warm holiday wishes, as well as striving to find the perfect book to match their age and interests and make them grin with delight.

Our programs help build skills. Children from low-income families have one-fourth the vocabulary of children from middle class families. “Reading Aloud Reminders” bookmarks provide parents with much needed guidance on how to read with their child to build essential pre-literacy skills and vocabulary that lasts a lifetime.

Access to books makes a big impact on kids, on their future and therefore, on our community and our society as a whole:

The long-term impact of access to books on an underprivileged child is beyond measure:

“Literacy is the key to all learning. Without it history is a haze, math is a muddle, the Internet is undecipherable, the promise of America is a closed book. But we can change all that. With an army of… [volunteers and community partners], we can make sure every child can read by the third grade. And if we do that, in the words of Dr. Seuss, ‘Oh the places our children will go.’”

President Bill Clinton

“I would like to say thank you for the wonderful Little Libraries filled with amazing books given to our children. Some may think of books only to read, but it goes deeper. Books give a sense of adventure and fantasy. Books open the window to so many possibilities for a young mind. So thank you so much for opening our children’s imaginations.”

Head Start teacher Petrina Dorsey

We receive amazing, moving letters from parents about how much the books meant to their children. Perhaps one mother expressed the impact better than we ever could:

“The books meant so much to my son. We read the books every night. My son's face lights up when it is story time. It is a special time we share together. It's just the two of us. That little man is my world. I don't have much, but I know how important reading is. I used to like to read when I was young and I want my son to be a good reader. It's hard for us to go to places because I don't have a lot of money, but when we read together, the books take us special places, exciting places we can dream about.”

We believe our books and libraries help inspire thinkers and dreamers. It is through reading that the next generation of healers, educators, entrepreneurs, artists, scientists, innovators, and philanthropists will be created.

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Better With Books
Providing brand new children's books to underserved communities