Here’s what we know: Even as early as grade school, the reading gap for low-income students is already present. More than a third of children entering kindergarten lack the basic language skills needed to learn how to read, and studies show there are significant gaps in reading achievement by race and income. Nearly half of fourth graders from low-income families read below the basic level.
Here’s what else we know: Whether families are rich or poor, books in the home are closely associated with an increase the level of education the children in that home will attain. One study found that having as few as 20 books in the home still has a significant impact on propelling a child to a higher level of education.
Based on that, wouldn’t it seem like a good first step to put a bookcase with at least 20 books in each low-income home?
Marta Guevara, the Director of Student & Family Engagement at Amherst-Pelham Regional Public Schools (ARPS), thinks so. At the Family Center at ARPS, where Marta and her team work to advocate for the education of all children in the district, they definitely see an opportunity here. They created the Reading for Success Bookcase Literacy Project to promote the importance of literacy in the education of all children and to encourage the love of reading from an early age.
Starting from the belief that every home should have a library of books, the project begins by focusing on the youngest students, pre-K to grade 2, donating a three-shelf bookcase to qualifying families, along with the opportunity to select books matched to the interests and learning levels of their children. As the project grows, outreach will extend to families of students in grades 3-6, and eventually to middle and high school.
“We believe that if we can change the life of one child and one family, we will have done the work that we have been sent here to do,” says Marta. “The Reading for Success Bookcase Literacy Project is a collaborative effort to address the achievement gap with the belief that reading is a fundamental human right.”
Community partners have already made the bookcases and the books to fill them a reality, and the project is set to begin putting resources into families’ homes in June.