Having books in the home and being read to as a child are the two most important indicators of academic and lifetime success. Yet nearly two-thirds of low-income families do not own a single children’s book.
Access to books is critical for brain development and academic success. Even more important, books expose children to the world beyond their neighborhood – to the possibilities... Books feed the imagination and change lives.
Early access to books and reading is critical
“A child care provider reads to a toddler. And in a matter of seconds, thousands of cells in these children’s growing brains respond …adding a bit more definition and complexity to the intricate circuitry that will remain largely in place for the rest of these children’s lives.” (Rethinking the Brain: New Insights Into Early Development, Report of the Conference on Brain Development, University of Chicago.)
“Early reading experiences are now recognized as being of such importance that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that pediatricians prescribe reading activities along with other instructions given to parents at the time of well-child visits.” (Press Statement, American Academy of Pediatrics, April 16, 1997, as quoted by Get Caught Reading’s “Fact Sheet on the Importance of Reading to Infants and Young Children.”)
“The development of early literacy skills through early experiences with books and stories is critically linked to a child’s success in learning to read.” (C.E. Snow & A. Ninio, “The Contacts of Literacy: What Children Learn from Learning to Read Books,” 1988.)
A meta-analysis of 108 of the most relevant studies shows that “[g]iving children access to print materials is associated with positive behavioral, educational and psychological outcomes.” (Learning Point Associates, “Access to Print Materials Improves Children’s Reading,” study commissioned by Reading is Fundamental, 2010.)
“The only behavior measure that correlates significantly with reading scores is the number of books in the home. An analysis of a national data set of nearly 100,000 United States school children found that access to printed materials—and not poverty--is the critical variable affecting reading acquisition.” (Jeff McQuillan, “The Literacy Crisis: False Claims, Real Solutions,” 1998.)
Children in poverty lack access to books
“61% of America’s low-income children are growing up in homes without books.” (Reading Literacy in the United States: Findings from the IEA Reading Literacy Study, 1996.).
"In middle-income neighborhoods the ratio of books per child is 13 to 1, in low-income neighborhoods, the ratio is 1 age-appropriate book for every 300 children." (Neuman, Susan B. and David K. Dickinson, ed., Handbook of Early Literacy Research, Volume 2, 2006.)
“The average child growing up in a middle class family has been exposed to 1,000 to 1,700 hours of one-on-one picture book reading. The average child growing up in a low-income family, in contrast, has only been exposed to 25 hours of one-on-one reading.” (Jumpstart, “America’s Early Childhood Literacy Gap,” 2009, citing Jeff McQuillan, “The Literacy Crisis: False Claims, Real Solutions, 1998.)
“80% of preschool and after-school programs serving low-income populations have no age-appropriate books for their children.” (Susan B. Neuman, et al., “Access for All: Closing the Book Gap for Children in Early Education,” 2001.)
The resulting achievement gap
"Academically, children growing up in homes with no books are on average three years behind children in homes with lots of books, even when controlled for other key factors such as income and parents’ education. (M.D.R. Evans et al, “Family scholarly culture and educational success: Books and schooling in 27 nations,” Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, June 2010, as quoted by BookHarvestNC.org.)
“[C]hildren who have not already developed some basic literacy practices when they enter school are three to four times more likely to drop out in later years.” (National Assessment of Adult Literacy, “National adult literacy survey,” 1993.)
“[A]cademic success, as defined by high school graduation, can be predicted with reasonable accuracy by knowing someone’s reading skill at the end of third grade. A person who is not at least a modestly skilled reader by that time is unlikely to graduate from high school.” (Catherine Snow, et al., “Preventing reading difficulties in young children,” 1998.)
“Illiteracy and crime are closely related. The Department of Justice states, ‘The link between academic failure and delinquency, violence, and crime is welded to reading failure.’ Over 70% of inmates in America's prisons cannot read above a fourth grade level.” (U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, “Reduced Recidivism and Increased Employment Opportunity Through Research-Based Reading Instruction,”1993)
"The achievement gap that exists between low-income and high-income children can be narrowed or even closed simply by giving books to low-income kids. Just a dozen books selected by the child, at a total cost of about $50, can achieve the same improvements in school performance as $3,000 worth of summer school.” (Richard Allington et al, "Ameliorating summer reading setback among economically disadvantaged elementary students," February 2010.)
"Even 15 minutes a day of independent reading outside of school can expose children to more than a million words of text in a year." (Anderson et al, report in Reading Research Quarterly, 1988.)
“Even a child who hails from a home with [only] 25 books will, on average, complete two more years of school than would a child from a home without any books at all.” (“Children’s Access to Print Materials and Education-Related Outcomes,” 2010, commissioned by Reading Is Fundamental.)
“The most successful way to improve the reading achievement of low-income children is to increase their access to print.” (Sanford Newman, America’s Child Care Crisis: A Crime Prevention Tragedy, 2000.)