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Do you remember the first time a book completely captured your imagination? Do you remember the first time you just couldn’t stop reading? Did you stay up past bedtime, hiding under the covers with a flashlight? Did you sit in a chair in the living room while all the chaos of your family swirled around you and not even notice because the story in your hands was more riveting than dinner preparations? For a lot of us, these types of memories make up the fuzzy moments of childhood. Memories softened by time but somehow with staying power.

These moments are powerful because they help to shape the people we are to become as we see ourselves reflected in different characters, awkwardly sound out words that are beyond our comprehension, and learn things that broaden our reality inch by inch. Early moments spent reading can have a profound impact on a child but… not every child has access to the books they need to make these memories. Right now, almost two-thirds of low-income families own no books for their children. Even more startling, students who are not proficient readers by 3rd grade are FOUR TIMES more likely to drop out of high school.

That is why it is so vitally important for us to make reading a right. It’s a simple concept with profound implications. Giving ownership of a book is a simple way to start. Scan your bookshelves for those gently-used children’s books and dust them off. It’s time for a new generation to follow Alice down the rabbit hole or learn to calm their inner wild thing. It’s time for those kiddos who have only ever borrowed a book to own one. To know what it is like to read it a billion times until they have memorized every line of the illustration and all the good parts of the story.

These early moments that connect kids to reading provide an invitation to love learning. When our volunteers show up at Summer Reading Spots across Lane County, they get to take it one step further. They see the gleeful looks on the kid’s faces as they rifle through the box of books you’ve donated and then…they get to read to them. They get to test out their best pigeon voice as they read “Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late,” to a group of giggling kids nestled in the warm summer grass. They get to see the faces of those kids light up when they realize that the pigeon sounds just like they do at bedtime. Volunteering at the Summer Reading Spots helps to build readers who can appreciate a good story. Readers who will grow up remembering what it was like to get cozy on a blanket in the park, all warm in the sun, listen to a new story being read and then to find the perfect book to take home and keep.

These are the types of readers who will hit third grade already knowing how to read and ready to read to learn. They will sail smoothly past that transition and on to new successes in school and life. Let’s continue to be the type of community that makes reading a right for all of our children.

Join United Way of Lane County and our partners in supporting the Summer Reading Spots

Donate books, host a book drive, or volunteer to read. Find out more.