The Importance of (Early) Reading


Children’s Books can be donated at schools; English students will package Crate Libraries


Your books can help someone else’s child become a reader.

All you need is a way to put those books into the hands of those children. Now, you have that way.

Bring new or gently used children’s books to the front lobby of any District 56 school for donation between now and May 10. The College Prep Senior English Class at Clinton High School will accept the donations and turn the books into Crate Libraries.

“Four weeks before graduation,” their instructor Jennifer Howard said in a May 1 interview, “I have never seen senior students more engaged.”

They have accepted the mission of improving the reading skills of the next generation of Clinton students and workers. The Crate Libraries will go everywhere kids and parents wait - with access to books, the hope is they will use the “down time” as reading aloud time.

The students want to close The Million Word Gap.

Children who are read to, especially at a very young age, develop better language skills than those who aren’t.

If they are never read to aloud, children miss the access to an estimated 1 million words by the time they are in school. By then, studies show, they are constantly playing catch-up.

Five students talked to The Chronicle about the Crate Libraries project; they are Fisher Puckett, Jaylin Wyatt, Anna Murphy, Shykenzie Haskell and Adoraim Priestley.

They said the aim is to put a Crate Library in doctors’ and dentists’ offices, hospitals and restaurants - places where kids are waiting, along with their parents and caregivers. Rather than do what people nowadays always do - pick up their phones - these English Honors students want the adults to pick up a book.

If there is no easy access to a book, there is an easy excuse not to read. And if it’s a parent reading to a child, there is no judgment - there should be no feeling on the adult’s part that “I’m not doing it right” - because all the child wants is your voice, in a loving, nurturing tone.

With the rhythm of reading.

Somehow, Howard said, “We have killed the love of reading.”

As they progress in school, children more and more are exposed to “read, and answer questions at the end of the chapter.” It becomes a chore - rather than a pleasure.

Elementary students get reading time - by the time it gets to middle school and high school, that is taken away by test prep, or activities, or work internships, or sports. No parent reads aloud to a high school-age child.

Yet, that connection time remains just as vital throughout a child’s life. And it carries over when that child has a child.

The English students said they learned about The Million Word Gap, how it affects especially children of poverty. Some said they were read to as young children, others not. They said the idea is that from the Crate Libraries, children can “take as many books as they want.”

Once read, the books can go back in the crates. But what happens, one might wonder, if the book is “stolen”?

So what, Howard said. “They take it home and they might read it again, and again.”

The class project is designed to “help people who cannot afford books, and others,” the students said. They are seeking donations of colorful, attention-grabbing books, picture books and even those with challenging words. 

The class in the schools that brings in the most books gets a party, and at the high school level that prize is a lunch off-campus. 

In other words, they get incentives. Some students asked Howard, “so what are the adults‘ incentives (to donate book)?”

She said, “I told them, for adults, just watching children read, that’s an incentive.”

My Clinton News

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