Where and how books fit into our digital future may be unclear, but it’s generally agreed that literacy remains one of the best predictors of a child’s future success, and even happiness. Statistics show that illiterate children have poor educational, employment and health outlooks. Many will not graduate from high school, will earn poverty-level incomes and will be more likely to engage in criminal behavior.
According to recent data from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the United States ranks forty-fifth in the world in literacy rates behind Cuba (#2) and Russia (#15) as well as Ukraine (#9), Tonga (#19) and Guyana (#32).
Roughly 42 million American adults can’t read at all; 50 million are unable to read at a higher than fourth or fifth grade level and the number of adults that are classified as functionally illiterate increases by about 2.25 million people each year.
First Book, a nonprofit group, was established in 1994 to take a stand in low-income communities by funding access to literacy education and ensuring continued access to books. A recognized leader in social enterprise, First Book has pioneered groundbreaking ways to provide new books and educational resources at deeply reduced prices—and for free—to schools and programs serving children in need.
And the number of children in need is growing fast. Forty-two percent of children in the United States—more than 30 million—currently live in poor households with few age-appropriate books at home, and are served by woefully under-funded classrooms with equally scarce resources.
Now, First Book is partnering with the Goodreads Book Club, the largest community of online readers in the world, in one of the coolest child literacy campaigns ever featuring Pulitzer Prize–winning author Jennifer Egan and her brilliant recent work, A Visit from the Goon Squad.
For each 10,000 Goodreads members who add Egan’s latest book to their “shelves,” the organization will donate 1,000 age-appropriate books to children in need. So far, more than 31,000 members have added the book; the initial goal is to convince at least 50,000 people to add the book by August 2, which would trigger a donation of 5,000 copies.
It’s free and easy to join Goodreads and participate in this great cause. As a special bonus, members will be able to join an exclusive live video chat with the always-engaging Egan in the climactic conclusion to the June/July book club. There’s rarely been as enjoyable and community-minded a way to help support children’s literacy.