The Need

elizabethperezantonioround3-0414Everything we do at Book Harvest is evidence-based. Research findings shape what we believe, what we do, and how we do it. Here are some of the whys behind our big, bold approaches and dreams.

All children need to grow up with books – and lots of them.

  • Books at home propel a child further in education.

“The difference between being raised in a bookless home compared to being raised in a home with a 500-book library has as great an effect on the level of education a child will attain as having parents who are barely literate (three years of education) compared to having parents who have a university education (15 or 16 years of education). . . . Both factors, having a 500-book library or having university-educated parents, propel a child 3.2 years further in education, on average.” From “Books in home as important as parents’ education in determining children’s education level”, Science Daily, May 21, 2010.

We can’t affect parents’ education, but we CAN affect number of books in the home!

  • Low-income children lack books at home, while their higher-income peers do not.

61% of America’s low-income children are growing up in homes without books (Reading Literacy in the United States: Findings from the IEA Reading Literacy Study, 1996.). Middle income households average 13 books per child (Neuman, S., & Dickinson, D. (Eds.). (2006) Handbook of Early Literacy Research (Vol. 2).

This income-based book gap puts our low-income children at a severe (yet addressable!) disadvantage for school success.

  • Books in the home are the single biggest indicator of academic success — surpassing income, parents’ education, family composition, and all other factors. To do well in school, children need to grow up in homes rich with books. (Jeff McQuillan, The Literacy Crisis: False Claims, Real Solutions, 1998).
  • Academically, children growing up in homes with no books are on average three years behind children in homes with lots of books, even when controlled for other key factors such as income and parents’ education.  (M.D.R. Evans et al, “Family scholarly culture and educational success:  Books and schooling in 27 nations”,Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, June 2010)
  • In a 2009 study, children in middle-income families engaged in 1,000 to 1,700 hours of picture book reading with an adult; for children in low-income families, that number was just 25 hours.  (Packard and MacArthur Foundation report in Jumpstart, “America’s Early Childhood Literacy Gap”, 2009)
  • The deficit that low-income children start school with is troublingly persistent:  88% of first graders who are below grade level in reading will continue to read below grade level in fourth grade. (Juel, C., “Learning to read and write: A longitudinal study of 54 children from first through fourth grades.” Journal of Educational Psychology, 80, 1988)
  • The most powerful and highest-impact way to improve the reading achievement of economically disadvantaged children is to increase their access to appropriate print materials (Sanford Newman et al, “America’s Child Care Crisis: A Crime Prevention Tragedy”, Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, 2000.

IMG_0898Providing a wealth of books to children in low-income homes can help break the link between poverty and poor academic outcomes.

  • Poverty and academic performance are inversely related. The February 2015 release of letter grades for North Carolina’s public schools by the Department of Public Instruction revealed grades that aligned with shocking and troubling precision along income lines: 80% of schools in which 80% or more students qualify for free or reduced lunch received a grade of D or F. More than 90% of the schools in which less than 20% of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch received a grade of A or B.In North Carolina, with 53% of public school students coming from low-income households, this situation creates a compelling need for interventions which direct resources to those schools with a large percentage of low-income students. Given that books at home are the strongest indicator of academic success, helping build home libraries is an important way to boost the academic performance of children in poverty. In fact, it may be the highest-impact, lowest-cost way.
  • The work of providing books to children in need is urgent. The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading cites third grade reading proficiency as “the most important predictor of high school graduation and career success. Yet every year, more than 80 percent of low-income children miss this crucial milestone.” Having ready access to books can help bring this rate down.

Providing a large quantity of books to a baby and its family from birth confers enormous benefits.

  • The brain grows at its fastest rate in the first year, at a pace of 700 new neural connections every second (UNICEF).
  • Eighty percent of brain development happens in the first three years of life (Urban Child Institute).

helenatwigExperiences during the early years determine the capacity of the brain. Inputs and enrichments are critical during this time.

  • Books are at the heart of language acquisition for children, and language acquisition is a major, if notthe major, factor in determining kindergarten-readiness and long-term school success.  Books trigger words, and children need to hear lots and lots of words to develop their brains.  Just 15 minutes of reading with a parent every day exposes a child to a million words a year (Anderson, Wilson, and Fielding, 1988). Books are the tools that enable parents to read to and talk to their children, a simple act that many of us take for granted.
  • Children from professional families start kindergarten having heard 45 million words; children from families on welfare enter kindergarten having heard just 13 million words. That’s a staggering 32-million-word gap, almost 300 words every hour, that directly predicts future outcomes. (Betty Hart and Todd R. Risley, Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children, Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co., 1995)
  • Low-income first graders have a vocabulary of 2,900 words — roughly half the 5,800-word vocabulary of first graders from professional homes. (White, T. G., Graves, M. F., and Slater, W. H. Growth of reading vocabulary in diverse elementary schools: Decoding and word meaning.Journal of Educational Psychology, 82 (2), 1990)
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement in 2014 that pediatricians should advise parents of young children to read to them daily and to inform them that sharing words and pictures in age-appropriate books is known to strengthen language and emergent literacy skills.
  • Just 48 percent of poor children are kindergarten-ready at age five, compared to 75 percent of children from families with moderate and high income, for a 27 percentage point gap (“Starting School at a Disadvantage: The School Readiness of Poor Children”, Julia B. Isaacs, Brookings Institution, March 2012).

Summer is when having access to books matters most for school-aged children; in fact, not having access to books in the summer has devastating consequences.

  • Summer learning loss accounts for an astounding 80% of the income-based achievement gap (Drs. Richard Allington and Anne McGill-Franzen, Summer Reading: Closing the Rich-Poor Reading Achievement Gap, Teachers College Press, 2012).
  • Providing a child with a dozen self-selected books at the start of summer for three years in a row conferred the same benefit as attending summer school for each of the three years – at a fraction of the cost ($50 vs. $3,000 per child per summer). The benefit was an increase in students’ reading achievement by 35 – 40% of a grade level (Allington and Franzen).

IMG_6994For books in the home to have the greatest impact, children need to select their own books.

  • One of the most striking findings of a three-year study of summer reading among low-income elementary school students was that participants improved their reading scores by selecting popular culture books they had chosen, rather than classics or books deemed at the proper level by the teachers. This and other studies reveal that children’s gains are larger when they are allowed to select their own books. (Allington et al, Addressing Summer Reading Setback Among Economically Disadvantaged Elementary Students, Reading Psychology 31, 2010).
  • When students were asked which book they had enjoyed most, 80% reported that the one they had enjoyed most was one they had selected themselves. (Gambrell, L.B. (1996). Creating classroom cultures that foster reading motivation. The Reading Teacher, 50.)
  • Students who select what they read and who have a comfortable environment in which to read (such as their home) tend to read more, to be more motivated, and to demonstrate increased language and literacy skills (Krashen, S., The Power of Reading. Englewood, Col.: Libraries Unlimited, Inc, 1993).