The Impact of Literacy in a Community

By: Tirzah Price, Big Rapids Community Library

At Big Rapids Community Library, we believe that building thriving communities starts with literacy. Strong literacy skills are the gateway to future success in all fields and professions, but unfortunately, Michigan is failing in this regard. According to a report released by the State in 2017, 55.9% of third grade students were not reading proficiently. Students who can’t read proficiently in the third grade are four times more likely to not graduate from high school. The problem is so serious that beginning in the 2019-2020 school year, the Michigan Third-grade Reading Law will hold back students who aren’t reading proficiently by the end of third grade.

The Big Rapids Community Library works to ensure that literacy practices are routine in children’s lives before they even reach elementary school. It begins with Catch ‘Em in the Cradle, a program giving every baby born in Big Rapids Spectrum Hospital a new board book, and their parents important information on how to start reading to their children. The 1,000 Books before Kindergarten program encourages parents to read at least 1,000 books with their children before they start kindergarten because reading, talking, writing, playing, and singing all foster early literacy skills that will help children succeed in school. The Library hosts Story Time programs twice a week, providing children and parents a fun, structured, and social outlet for reading fun.

To ensure access for all children in the community, the Big Rapids Let’s Read program allows every student enrolled in a Big Rapids school to obtain a library card, provides free resources for teachers, and helps to provide curated selections of excellent books in every classroom. The Summer Reading program is open to all kids and adults, incentivizing reading and making learning fun with reading challenges and free events to keep kids occupied all summer long. The 2018 Summer Reading program theme is Music and the program kick off is June 15th from 11am – 2pm at the Library.

Perhaps the most significant indicator of childhood literacy is parent literacy. Not only can parents read to and with their children, but they can set excellent examples by reading themselves. Using the Library resources demonstrates to children that literacy and the Library are important aspects of any community. Teens and adults are encouraged to check out books, utilize our research databases, join a book club, and attend programs and events. Literacy can also extend beyond the ability to read and write, and include computer, health, and food literacy. The Library offers weekly technology classes, a seed library, community gardens, and continuous free programming on a variety of events throughout the year.

Education and open access to information have a direct link to economic success and quality of life. Business owners should care about literacy because studies show that more than 36 million American adults lack the literacy skills to engage in the workforce, and 43% of adults with low-literacy skills live in poverty. As a result, low literacy costs businesses and taxpayers $225 billion each year in government assistance and unemployment. The Library is committed to offering free and equal access to information to all; ensuring citizens are healthier, happier, and civically engaged.


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