Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Can Your Book Club Help Mine?

Phew. I'm back from the fall rush. Now I'm in the middle of a book rush. It's a good place to be.

Monday I spoke at a lovely public middle school in New Jersey. It was well-appointed but not crazily so; the students were well-behaved, diverse, well-prepared, inquistive--everything you'd want in a school group. It was a pleasure to be with them.

As usual, I asked the librarian what percentage of the students get free or reduced-price school lunch. The librarian looked startled. "I'd guess hardly any," she said. Later I looked the school up on, and sure enough, it's listed as 1%.

In a perfect world, none of our schoolchildren will grow up in poverty.

Where I live--I just stopped to do some math with the stats on, because my town is divided into both Tennessee and Virginia sides, and has 9 elementary and 2 middle schools--in my hometown, 71% of the elementary students and 63% of the middle school students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. That's 3000 students out of a little over 4000.

This is why I started the Appalachian Literacy Initiative. If you're struggling to feed your kids you're going to struggle to get them books.

If they don't have access to books, they don't learn to read as well.

Nationwide, of the students who get free and reduced-price lunch, only 22% read proficiently.

At ALI, we've enrolled 28 classrooms, 675 students, in this year's program. By the end of the year each teacher will have a classroom set of 28 new high-quality books and each child will have four brand-new books of their choice to keep. "I hate to say this," one teacher from Kentucky told me, "but you give some of my students one book and you've just increased by 100% the number of books in their home."

The books we give are interesting and age-appropriate and shiny bright. They are books designed to get kids hooked on reading.

They are not free or reduced-price books. (Though our partner, Parnassus Books, does give us a great discount.) And the truth is, we've committed to these kids, but we don't know yet how we're going to fund the whole year. We're working on it! We'll take all ideas.

Meanwhile, the librarian at that school in New Jersey had a suggestion that I'm going to pass onto all of you. If you're reading this, you probably enjoy reading.
If your reading this, you may belong to a book club.

If you belong to a book club, would your club sponsor ALI? Perhaps we could be your holiday project. For $40 you could sponsor a student. $210 will sponsor the teacher's classroom set. $1000 is an entire classroom for the year.

I know, at this time of year you've got a million worthy charities vying for your attention and your dollars. Can you still spare a moment for us? I believe so sincerely in this cause. I believe so sincerely that the right book can be a lifeline for a child.

If you’d like to support the work that we’re doing, you can mail a check to Appalachian Literacy Initiative at PO Box 3283, Bristol, TN 37625, or click here to purchase books on our wishlist from Parnassus Books, our preferred bookstore. You’ll receive 10% off with the code GIVEREADING, and Parnassus will ship the books to us free of charge. You can also purchase books from our Amazon wishlist by clicking here.

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