Monday, July 6, 2015

It’s National Give a Kid a Book Day!

I am declaring today, July 6, National Give a Kid a Book Day (NGKBD).

What is Give a Kid a Book Day? It is a day when every adult takes time out of their busy day to let a child know how important reading is by giving that child the gift of a book.

Why Give a Kid a Book Day? We have days for everything. Mother’s Day. Father’s Day. Grandparent’s Day. Administrative Assistant’s Day. Boss’s Day. National Tapioca Pudding Day (That’s on July 15 for those who wish to celebrate). So, why not National Give a Kid a Book Day?

Why July 6? It seems as good a day as any. July is a month when most children are off from school. Giving a child a book now will give them something productive, entertaining and even edifying to do. It may also help to combat summer loss syndrome, that pernicious affliction that causes students to lose their learning gains by not sufficiently exercising their reading muscles over the summer. It is also my son’s birthday and I have given him books on every one of his 38 birthdays and I am pleased to say he is a reader.

National Give a Kid a Book Day is dedicated to the many hard working people who have gone to extraordinary efforts to make sure that children have access to books. Toward that end each year on this day we will recognize these folks by placing them on the NGKBD Honor Roll.
This year’s Honor Roll inductees are as follows:

Luis Soriano – In 1990, Mr. Soriano, a teacher in rural Colombia, was concerned about the high illiteracy rates of local children. Luis owned two donkeys, so he decided to create the “biblioburro” or “library donkey.” For the last 25 years he has been loading up the donkey’s saddlebags with more than 100 books and traveling to remote villages where he picks up kids, gives them a ride to school and gives them a book to read. All this despite the fact that Mr. Soriano has a full time job and was once attacked by bandits (I would have loved to have seen the robbers' faces when the saw the contents of those saddlebags). Over the years the biblioburro has reached more than 4,000 children (Mental Floss, July/August 2015).

Lisa Willever – Willever, a former school teacher in Trenton, New Jersey, set a goal of providing a book for each and every school child in this impoverished small city in Mercer County, New Jersey. She solicited the help of the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office, the fire department, the New Jersey Education Association and others and within a month had collected over 7,000 books. The books were delivered to Trenton schoolchildren one Wednesday in June, where one teacher remarked, “All the kids wanted to do today was read” (Trenton Times, 2015).

Words on Wheels – College students on bicycles can be seen wheeling through north Philadelphia delivering books for summer reading to children who are participating in the “Words on Wheels” program. The program, part of an alliance between Tree House Books and First Book Philadelphia, takes the books directly to the children at their homes through volunteers from Temple University. As Vashti Du Bois, Executive Director of Tree House Books puts it, “Research has shown us that just by having books in their homes [children] increase their reading ability by one grade level” (Groundswell, 2013).

My mentor, Dr. Susan Mandel Glazer, now professor emeritus from Rider University, was a huge advocate for giving children the gift of books. Whenever Susan gave a child a book, she also included a lollipop. After observing this over and over, I finally asked Susan why she always included a lollipop. She said, “I want to send a message. Reading is sweet.”

Do something sweet today. Give a kid a book. Throw in a lollipop if you want, but just do it. It will feel good and it will do good. If you happen to read this on a day other than July 6, give a kid a book anyway. Every day is a good day to give a kid a book.

If you have nominees for the NGKBD Honor Roll, please send them along to me and I will honor them next year on the second annual National Give a Kid a Book Day.