In order for a disadvantaged child to become educated, skilled, resourceful and ready to tackle the world with competitive spirit, the books and developed love of reading they have available to them oftentimes arrive through the love of selfless hearts. And right now, there are literally hundreds of book drives and charities which, through the use of volunteers and determined will, deliver free books and other reading materials to low-income children who otherwise wouldn’t enjoy the world of literature.
For children to become strong readers, they need books in their hands that they care about – brand-new, quality books they are excited to read. And it isn’t always those colorful covers of, Harry Potter or The Twilight series of novels I’m referencing. It’s also books from lesser-known authors, educational resources and even children’s illustration booklets helping to get them started.
Developing the ability to read is critical to a child’s success, and literacy is perhaps the biggest predictor of a young persons chances. However, a child without access to books will not have the advantage of becoming an engaged and capable reader, and this is the reality of those living in poverty. In some of the lowest-income areas in the United States there is roughly one book available for every 300 children, a national disaster, and something our educational system needs to address with much greater attention.
Children who are illiterate, or have low literacy skills have poor education, employment and health outlooks. Many will never graduate high school, or earn barely enough to rise above poverty and become much more likely to follow criminal and anti-social lifestyles. Illiteracy costs are enormous, which is why individuals who take a generous approach to providing reading materials to those in need deserve our attention and unending support.
Recently, I visited a small area in Texas along the Mexican border where I helped deliver books to the impoverished children of Rio Grande City. The trip was a short one, only for a weekend, but allowed me to see firsthand how one woman’s desire, and those who help her, can make a difference to so many in desperate need.
Starr Readers was founded roughly ten years ago by Texas native, Karen Furlong. Her family’s roots are imbedded in Rio Grande City and she started the organization as a way of honoring her grandparents who were longtime residents. As a lover of books and charitable causes, she began delivering books in her car one Christmas season and has enjoyed seeing the number donated each year grow into the thousands. With the help of individual donations and non-profit organizations such as, First Book, that kind of success has started requiring the use of large trucks and more trips as well as adding a college scholarship fund (Starr Readers Scholarship) so that a high school senior can realize the advantage and dream of higher education.
The children of Starr County are extremely poor, many live in areas known as, Colonias (video) where food, running water and other sanitary amenities are virtually non-existent. Most of the housing is handmade from scrap metal and whatever materials are lying around. The kids ride to school on buses and then return home which is mostly cut off from the rest of society, several miles from major roadways. For the overwhelming majority, the meals provided to them at school are their only ones. Those, and perhaps the scarce vegetables grown outside their doorways. And books, most times the only ones they’ll ever own are those donated by organizations such as Starr Readers.
Organizations like this are selflessly founded to help others and to improve disadvantaged lives beyond that which they are born into. And as a writer who obviously loves books and all things reading, it’s wonderful knowing and now seeing, how the gift of literature is being given to a deserving generation.
For more information about, Starr Readers visit their website @ www.starrreaders.com
Follow them also on, Twitter @starrreaders
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