Write Stuff – The Gift of Words

The holiday shopping season is heating up, and it looks like books and all things literary are suddenly cool again. Readers are clamouring for a copy of The Sentimentalists, The New York Times is expanding its bestseller lists to include e-books, and NaNoWriMo writers have collectively scribbled over 1.4 billion words so far. But in all the glossy excitement of gift-wrapping that e-reader or surprising someone with a copy of the Giller Prize winner, there’s another item you might want to add to your to-do list: buying a book for an adult or child still learning to read.

If It’s been decades since you first struggled over Dr. Seuss or The Snowy Day, it might be hard to remember just how difficult it was to make sense of the letters on the page. And it might be even harder to comprehend how many adults are still working to master that skill, but the numbers are worth repeating. According to ABC Life Literacy Canada, ?four out of 10 adult Canadians? fall below the equivalent of high school completion in their ability to read and comprehend prose and documents. And in 2003, some 3.1 million adult Canadians were reading at ?proficiency Level 1 on the prose literacy scale (below middle school skills).?

That’s where publishers like Grass Roots Press come in. Their field is adult basic education, and they publish and distribute hundreds of titles ?to over 4,500 customers in Canada, the United States, the UK, New Zealand, and Australia.? Their chapter books are ?short novels written for adults with low literacy skills? and are ?packed with crime, romance, adventure, and mystery.?

Grass Roots is only one example, though, and there’s clearly an enormous need for these kinds of books. So why not approach your local literacy centre and offer to add to their collection? They may already buy from a specific store or publisher and might welcome a donation to their book-buying fund. Or maybe they can point you to some resources so you can choose the books yourself.

And if You’re wondering how It’s possible that some kids can make it all the way through public school and barely know how to read, you’ll find some of the answers at sites like First Book and First Book Canada. The issue is complex, but a big part of it comes down to money. As one study reveals, ?in middle income neighborhoods the ratio of books per child is 13 to 1? while ?in low-income neighborhoods, the ratio is 1 age-appropriate book for every 300 children.?

First Book and programs like it let you supply books to kids through a donation, and your dollars can go further than if you bought the books on your own. For instance, on the US First Book site, a $20 donation will put 10 new books in young readers? hands?kids who may never own a book otherwise.

So as the holiday buying rush begins, take a moment to think about the millions of adults and kids whodunnits’d be thrilled to receive a new book?or even to be able to read one. It’s a small gift that could make a big difference.

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