Written by Jennifer Duncan
When you look at a city like Houston, you most likely think of diversity and culture. What you may not think of, though, is illiteracy. Our bustling metropolis ranks 56th of 75 large cities for literacy rates, placing us right at the bottom. Let that sink in. Amid all the incredible food, the diversity, and a world-renowned medical industry surrounded by some of the most brilliant minds, there is a large number of people who are functionally illiterate or just can’t read at all. Here’s another fact: 60% of Houston area children enter kindergarten each year, lacking the reading skills they need to succeed.
So, where does the problem begin? There is no easy answer.
Studies show poverty rates are directly linked to lower levels of literacy. The National Center for Education Statistics shows 61% of low-income families have no books for their children to read. That means some families simply do not have the means to purchase a single book to have at home. Imagine a life without imagination. Books are the key to other bright, incredible worlds and can unlock so much more than good grades in school. The words can unlock a new universe and a new love. We know access to books is essential to reading acquisition. Another factor for some families: the parents may not speak English and cannot help their child learn to read for public schooling. Others may not be able to read on their own, limiting how they can help their children.
Many of us were fortunate to grow up with families who encouraged reading. My mom loved to read; she had bookshelves bursting at the seams with different kinds of books on any subject imaginable. She started teaching me as soon as I could help her turn a page, and that created a huge love of learning for me, one that I still try to satisfy today. If it had not been for my mom and her passion, I might not always be looking for a new challenge in my life. I can thank her for teaching me the value of simply loving to read. She also taught my dad to be more functionally literate. It’s helped him create better opportunities as a business owner and has given him a new outlet to relax.
How do you bring that passion to countless other kids? Literacy Now works with schools and the community to get books into kids’ hands and open them up to the incredible world of literacy. They also work with other groups trying to accomplish the same big goals, like Texas Tamale Company. Each year my company puts together a not-for-profit book drive to help get books to kids so they can simply learn to love to read like me. Our book drive is called Literacy in the Bag, and we drop off bags to your front door for donations of new and gently used books, then come back and pick them up! How simple is that? This year we are hosting a big kickoff party to get people like you excited about spreading that same love of reading. You can find us, along with Literacy Now and many others at Saint Arnold Brewing Company, for a celebration of all things reading on Saturday, October 9th, 2021. The kids will be beyond excited to meet Swatson from the Sugar Land Skeeters and take a picture with our mascot Tex the Tamale. Plus, they can play games, win prizes, and maybe grab a book. The event is nestled in the middle of Saint Arnold’s brewery and beer garden for the adults to enjoy. An all-around good time for the entire family.
We would like for you to take that same passion for reading and pass it on to others.
How can you do that?
- Show up and support the community!
What’s better than participating in your community and finding a reason to be connected with one another?
We have opportunities to help at the kickoff event by passing out bags for donations, hosting collection bins, or helping us sort books to get to kids in Title 1 schools in HISD and FBISD
Bring a book with you to the event and donate to the drive, so we can give it to a kid who may not have access to books at home. All donations go to HISD and FBISD Title 1 schools.
Every child needs a chance, and this is your opportunity to help us make that happen. We cannot wait to see you there so we can celebrate and put an end to illiteracy in Houston.