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story.lead_photo.caption Jim Davidson, Columnist

In our modern American society, the child who grows up without learning to read does not have a prayer when it comes to achieving true success in life. Unfortunately, this is the case for several million of our nation’s children. According to a 2017 study by the Department of Education and the National Institute of Literacy, 32 million adults can’t read. A large part of the reason for this statistic is that 61 percent of low-income families have no books in the home for their pre-school children to read, a crucial time when reading development takes place.

According to the Department of Justice, “The link between academic failure and delinquency, violence and crime is welded to reading failure. The stats back up this claim: 85 percent of all juveniles who interface with the juvenile court system are functionally illiterate and over 70 percent of inmates in America’s prisons cannot read above a fourth-grade level, according to BeginToRead.com. The inability to read is silently killing America, ruining lives, costing billions of dollars and pulling down the ability of the United States to compete with the rest of the world.”

Now, here is the real tragedy. The vast majority of the American people have not heard this, and even if they have, feel powerless to do anything about it. When I share this information with others, I hear this comment all the time, “I knew we had a literacy problem in our country but I had no idea how bad it is.” Well, my friend, it is bad, and unless we take action now and do something about illiteracy, the consequences will be even greater than what I have already shared. For the sake of future generations, we just cannot afford to let this happen.

In 2005, here in my community of Conway, Arkansas, we started a literacy project that we call The Conway Bookcase Project. The objective of our project is to provide a personalized bookcase and a starter set of books to pre-school children being reared in low-income families. We are “All-Volunteer – Giving Back” and no one personally earns a penny for their good work. To date, we have given over 700 bookcases locally, have projects in five other states, and the total nationwide is over 2,000 bookcases and books. The feedback has been tremendous as our project is making a real difference in the lives of these children. One of the reasons is that these children and their parents know that someone cares.

As the founder of this project, and now almost 80 years of age, I know that my days are numbered, and I have written a book titled “My Heartfelt Passion: Saving Our Nation One Child at a Time.” This book is available from Amazon.com and gives a complete chronology of our copyrighted project, where any motivated literate person can begin a literacy project just like ours. When we have 10 to 12 copies in the hands of leaders in communities all across our nation who will begin bookcase projects, we will make a difference – a big difference. People who have read this book tell me they couldn’t put it down.

If you believe in what we are doing and are willing to help, here is what I would like to ask you to do. Go to Amazon.com and order a copy of my book, and read it. Then write a book review that Amazon can post on their website that will be included with several others. If you are on Facebook, post this article and ask your friends to share it, and keep sharing all across America. If you are on Facebook, you know the power of social media and what we can accomplish, working together, over the coming months and years. To God be the glory.

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