Education - start with getting books into the home


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Great read in the CSM today about bumping up South African kids' start on a lifetime of learning by getting more books into their homes.. some of them by way of Book Dash - a nonprofit company taking ideas for children's books straight to production from marathon 12-hour book creation sessions contributed to on a volunteer basis by professional writers, artists, editors.

For Book Dash... getting books into the hands of more South Africans has always been a question of social justice. Elsewhere in the world, having a large collection of books at home has been shown to be just as significant as the parents’ education level for determining how far a child will go in school, according to a 20-year study from the University of Nevada, Reno. Other studies have shown that having books at home correlates to not only better reading skills, but better math and technology know-how as well.

But nearly 60% of South Africans don’t have a single book at home, according to a 2016 survey by the South African Book Development Council, and 78% of fourth graders in the country can’t read for meaning – to understand a story or argument in a text – according to a global study conducted that year. Of the 50 countries surveyed in that study, South Africa finished last. And like most inequalities in the country, literacy levels are highly racialized, due in part to a long history of separate and unequal schooling that funneled resources into white schools and deliberately withheld them from Black ones.

Using only a rough idea developed ahead of time by the writer, teams of four – a writer, editor, illustrator, and designer – meet and spend 12 hours honing the story, writing and editing the text, drawing the characters, and laying out the book.

The organization then distributes its books through literacy organizations and other educational charities. It also makes the PDFs of all its books freely available on its website, and sells print copies via an online bookstore for 40 rand ($2.80) each.

Hmm... "some of this" could sound pretty familiar to anyone in the USA keeping up with social justice issues centered around education and attempts to improve children's equal access to related resources. Not sure we have or even need something exactly like Book Dash here in the states, but God knows there are still plenty homes without internet access or bookshelves, never mind adequate funding of public libraries (at school and in the larger community).


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Terrific thread (and OP), and - to my mind - there is no way that you could over-state the importance of encouraging reading (and taking pleasure from reading) in children, particularly those from less well off backgrounds.

And, in order to do that, books must be accessible and easily available and their use must be encouraged.

I have lost count of the number of accounts I have read where someone (perhaps, a journalist, or a writer, or something else) wrote of how having a public library in their childhood transformed their (often chaotic, sometimes violent, and almost always underprivileged) lives, offering access to books, a world of the imagination, alternative ways of being, and - also - of equal importance, a safe place and safe space to study, dream, plan and read.

And, as a child, I loved those book-shops which encouraged children to read, - by never chasing them away - and lose themselves in books when visiting the shop; I recall one book-shop owner - years later, long after he had retired - saying that nothing had delighted him more then seeing a child, seated on the floor of the book-store, curled up and utterly lost in a book.

To those people, profits mattered less than encouraging and cultivating a love of books and the habit of reading.
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