Frederick Douglass said, “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” That freedom comes from knowledge, discernment, word recognition and comprehension. Illiteracy not only robs the mind’s ability to grow and learn, but it is directly linked to crime and failure. 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.
We must read to our children, encourage them to read and provide books to create a love of reading. You cannot start early enough because literacy is such a vital part of a child’s formative years. By age four, children from professional families know approximately 1,100 words, while children from low-income families only know 500 words.
I was blessed to be raised by grandparents who valued reading. My grandmother, whom I affectionately call Big-Mama, loved to go to garage sales. Big-Mama, who possessed an eighth grade diploma, encouraged me to read and gave me money to buy books at these garage sales. My grandfather, Paw-Paw, had a third grade education and signed his name with an X because he could not read nor write. However, he would listen to me read for hours. He once told me, “LaTonya, if you can read, you will be able to go anywhere in the world.” Paw-Paw, who died several years ago, would not be surprised that my ability to read has provided me the opportunity to go many places in the world. (It has not improved the fact that I am geographically challenged and get lost quite often.) Seriously, I strongly believe that my love for reading and my experiences with quality teachers who had high expectations made all of the difference for me to overcome poverty.
Please join Team Lufkin ISD by encouraging your child, grandchild, church youth, neighbor, and/or friend to participate in the numerous reading programs occurring throughout our district and community. We must create an environment that embraces literacy if we want our next generation to truly be free.