Thursday, October 22, 2015

Something's Got to Change, For Sure.

Last week the Richmond, VA, newspaper wrote a heartbreaking article about an elementary school whose students were all--100%--receiving free lunch, a marker for poverty, and whose teachers were moving mountains in their efforts to keep these children safe, fed, and able to learn.

The article described children who come to school in their pajamas, with their shoes on the wrong feet. Children who explain the previous day's absence by saying, "Momma had a needle in her arm." Children who are dirty, abused, and above all hungry. The school keeps a stash of extra clothes on hand. There's a washer and dryer in the teacher's lounge for laundering student clothing. The school feeds all its children breakfast and lunch; many students stay for an after-care program where they get another meal before they leave. On Fridays, some of the children leave with backpacks filled with still more food--donated by a local church--to get them through the weekend. These children suffer so much when they aren't at school that this year the school has made half of Christmas break, and a good chunk of summer break, optional. These kids would rather be at school. It's a safe good place.

The school passed all its federal testing benchmarks last year.

The school, Highland View Elementary, is in my hometown.

Two days ago my friend Jess sent me a link to a speech given by Neil Gaiman about the importance of reading. The bit that stuck in my head--that appalled me--was this: the number of prison cells any particular area will need in ten to fifteen years directly correlates with the number of fourth-graders from that area who aren't reading at grade level. You can closely estimate the size of future prison populations by looking at the number of kids who can't read. Good God. Children's lives are at stake.

Then yesterday Glennon Doyle over at Momastery wrote, "There are no such things as other people's children."

I don't know what I'm going to do with all of this year, but I know I've got to do something. I'll keep you posted. Maybe we can all do something--maybe books can change the world.