We don’t know how long modern humans have walked the earth. And we know almost nothing about the first ones to appear. But we know quite a lot about our history since around 4000 B.C. That’s when the first Mesopotamian writing appeared, and human knowledge and history began being recorded for future generations. What we call the dawn of civilization was really the dawn of writing. It’s writing that opens up the past, the present, and it’s our way to leave a mark on the future.
But without the ability to read it, there are people who won’t be able to share in the knowledge, history and culture that ties our world together in new and ever-increasing ways. Sure, there is recorded video and sound, and those can be wonderful, but to truly experience and interact with the world, to not only partake of culture but to participate in shaping it, one must be able to read and write.
Reading changes everything. It hones the mind, opens up new opportunities, and it makes it possible to imagine incredible new possibilities. Whether it’s a novel, an email, a blog, a subtitled film, a school textbook, a news article, a credit card statement or an end-user license agreement (just kidding, no one reads those), the ability to read is essential. And those who can’t are simply being left behind by modern society.
A child who learns to read will be far more likely to complete school and stay out of jail as an adult. But with funding tight at schools around the country, the school library is often one of the first things cut. Many schools, and particularly ones in struggling inner-city districts, haven’t had new books in years. Without good books, kids may decide that reading is boring, and never try to get good at it, and that can leave them unprepared for the world they grow up in. That’s why, for this week, I’m highlighting Kids Need to Read.
Kids Need to Read was co-founded in 2008 by author P.J. Haarsma and actor Nathan Fillion. It aims to foster literacy by sending schools exciting, well-written books that appeal to children at early reading levels. Their website claims that their carefully-selected reading list is what sets them apart from other literacy charities, and that the books they send are ones best suited to get kids eager to keep reading.
Now that I’ve discovered the charity, I’m going to let my own kids tear into that list and see what they think of it. You can learn more by visiting their website (which, not surprisingly, is very well-written), and maybe you’ll consider making a donation of your own while you’re there.