A Book Person Mourns
August 26th, 2010
As I may have mentioned once or twice, our family is comprised of Book People. We’re readers, the lot of us. Our home has seven bookcases brimming with literature and we’re always lamenting that there just isn’t room for any more shelving. At last count, my husband’s collection numbered over 325 (and that doesn’t include the titles on his Kindle). Miss Mouse may be just shy of two, but she loves nothing more than paging through her books and has favorites she will ask for by name. She takes at least three to bed with her every night.
All of which to say: we like books.
And so I was devastated to learn a few weeks ago that one of my favorite Pittsburgh non-profits (located just down the street from my own), was forced to close its doors due to lack of funding. Beginning with Books was focused on childhood literacy in the low-income neighborhoods of Pittsburgh’s East End. It was a beautiful organization doing beautiful things. They had several grand awareness events each year, including “The Biggest Bedtime Story Ever” which took place in a sports arena and involved thousands of children in pajamas consuming zillions of cookies and enjoying story time.
But day in and day out, the nuts and bolts of their work was in encouraging families to read to their kids and making books available to families who couldn’t afford them. As the numbers above show, it is almost unfathomable to me that there are homes — many of them — in which there are no books. None. Not a single one. But it’s true. And study after study has shown that kids who aren’t exposed to reading early in their lives, and who enter school without any kind of literary framework, start their academic careers behind and never catch up.
It makes me sad that not enough people recognized the importance of Beginning with Books. I suspect it’s a sign of the economy — childhood literacy is a long-term investment and people are very focused on the here and now. It’s why my own organization hasn’t felt the fundraising pain as deeply as we thought we might. When so many people are down and out, a soup kitchen is an obvious charitable choice. Reading to four year olds? A less obvious choice, it would appear.