End Book Deserts advocates for children in high-poverty areas who lack basic access to age-appropriate books, high-quality reading materials, and book culture. By highlighting the work of innovative organizations and grassroots efforts, we raise awareness about the implications of limited literacy resources on children’s reading development. Through advocacy, fundraising, and author outreach, we strive to eradicate book deserts, get the right book into the hands of the right reader, and promote lifelong reading for all children.
WHAT IS A 'BOOK DESERT'?
A book desert is a geographic area where reading materials are difficult to obtain. The term was coined by Unite For Literacy, to call attention to structural inequalities that compromise children’s reading development. Researcher Susan Neuman points out that book deserts - for children growing up in neighborhoods of concentrated poverty - constrain their opportunity to come to school ready to learn.
A NATION OUT OF BALANCE
of our nation’s children live in neighborhoods that lack public libraries and stores that sell books, or in homes where books are an unaffordable or unfamiliar luxury.
of the schools and programs in our nation’s lowest-income neighborhoods can’t afford to buy books at retail prices.
American children go without books.
– Randi Weingarten, 2015
In high-poverty neighborhoods, children’s books are hard to come by. According to the U.S. Department of Education, up to 61% of low-income families do not have any books for their kids at home. These children face further devastating inequalities:
In high-income communities, there are about 13 books for every child; in high-poverty communities there is one book for every 300 children (Neuman & Celano, 2001)
The presence of books in the home is a strong predictor of reading achievement.
Access to print resources during early childhood development has an immediate and long-term effect on vocabulary, background knowledge, and comprehension (Allington et al. 2010; Mol & Bus, 2011.
In Washington D.C’s Anacostia neighborhood (poverty level of 61%), 830 children would share a single book, whereas children in Capitol Hill had 16 times as many books (Neuman & Moland, 2019).
Families with incomes of $100,000 or more have nearly twice the amount of books than families with less than $35,000 in annual income (125 vs. 73), and Hispanic and Black children have fewer books in their homes than white, multi-racial, Asian or children of other racial backgrounds (Scholastic, 2019).
Without access to reading materials and book culture, children may come to school unprepared and are less likely to become lifelong readers. At End Book Deserts, we spotlight innovative people and programs working to reach young readers in urban and rural communities. Using these unique initiatives as the common narrative thread throughout each podcast, we expose and highlight the structural inequalities that detract from literacy opportunities.
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