Greetings from the Newberry County Literacy Council. The Council celebrates reading each and every day of each and every year.
At the national level, there are annual celebrations that remind us of the importance of childhood reading. The National Education Association celebrates Read Across America during March. Schools and community organizations across the nation hold special events to highlight the importance and fun of reading.
This celebration began in 1997 to coincide with the birthday of Dr. Seuss. In Newberry Boundary Street School acknowledged this program with various reading activities.
The NEA understands the connection between success in reading and success in school and life and has published a list of suggestions about promoting reading for children and within the family. Here are a few of them:
• Set a good example as a reader — let kids see you reading every day.
• Get a subscription in his or her name to an age-appropriate magazine for your child. When relatives and others ask for gift ideas, suggest magazine subscriptions, books, or a book store gift certificate.
• Make reading fun – a time that you and your children look forward to spending together.
• Check out The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease (New York: Penguin Books, 1995). It’s loaded with fun tips and reading recommendations.
• Keep lots of books, magazines, and newspapers around the house. Visit the library often and shop for books at garage and yard sales, swap meets, and used bookstores.
• Don’t fret if “Captain Underpants” has captivated your child rather than Robinson Crusoe. The important thing: he’s reading! Encourage it and he’s likely to move on to more sophisticated titles as he gets older.
The issue of childhood reading is also a matter of adult reading. Many of the suggestions above assume a household where the adults are proficient readers but we know that often is not the case. That is one reason why adult literacy programs are important; they enable parents to be an educational resource for their children.
And that is also why after-school programs are necessary. For some children, this is the only source of mentoring and tutoring they have outside of school hours. Children also need summer reading programs. Children who don’t read during the summer lose some of the gains they made during the school year.
The Literacy Council, the Living Hope Foundation, the Y, and other groups offer summer programs that include a focus on reading.
Interestingly, and related to the topic of summer programs and after-school programs for children, I just returned from a trip to Washington, D.C., with a group of South Carolina YMCA directors and volunteers, including Eric Nelson, the director of the Newberry Y.
The purpose of the trip was to visit the members of the South Carolina legislative delegation and advocate for legislation, programs, and funding that help the Y achieve its goals of promoting youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility. In pursuit of these goals, the Y offers after-school programs, summer education programs, diabetes prevention programs, and much else.
These programs, of course, require adequate funding. Right now some funding is available from the 21st Century Community Learning Centers Fund, the Child Care and Development Block Grant, and Head Start. Each year these programs are vulnerable to cuts or elimination and so Y representatives from all over the country head to Washington at the start of the budgeting process to make a case for continuing, and if possible expanding, these programs.
We were walking the halls of the Senate and House office buildings with many other groups advocating for their programs.
We talked mainly with aides of the two Senators and seven Representatives from South Carolina while lobbyists for presumably more powerful interests met directly with the legislators. The aides and Rep. Tom Rice, one elected official who did talk with us, spoke warmly about the Y and its programs.
But after we returned home, the Trump administration released its preliminary budget for 2018. The funding sources for the Y listed above were all marked for reduction or elimination. The final budget will not be crafted until later so maybe the funding will survive.
In the meantime, the Y and many other supporters of children’s programs will speak out and campaign for them. They know that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Providing funding that prepares children for success as readers and students will reduce the funds needed to address dropouts, crime, and drug use while strengthening the workforce and the bonds that tie us together. That seems an investment worth making.
As always, we at the Literacy Council urge everyone to keep community needs in mind. Use your literacy skills, as the Founders had in mind, to follow issues, oversee our elected officials, and speak your mind. And consider joining groups and efforts to address matters of community concern.
Until next time, happy reading!
Joseph McDonald is a retired sociology professor from Newberry College and has worked with the Newberry County Literacy Council for more than 20 years as a tutor and board member. The Literacy Council is located at 1121 Caldwell St. Visit newberryread.com, call 803-276-8086 or send an email to [email protected] for more information.