CELEBRATING YOUNG AUTHORS TO HELP IMPROVE CHILDHOOD LITERACY
Reading is the key to a successful future. That saying has a lot of mileage, but it’s truer now than ever before. To participate fully in society and in the workplace today, our children really need the literacy competency that until now has only been demonstrated by our top academic performers. Today, a lot of children are falling behind. More than any other academic domain, a child’s grasp of literacy skills determines their capacity for success in life.
1.According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, approximately half the nation’s unemployed 16 – 21 year olds are functionally illiterate, meaning they can’t balance check books, read prescription drug labels, follow written instructions, or answer simple essay questions on job applications.
2.Nearly half of America’s adults are functionally illiterate, leaving them with virtually no prospect of obtaining jobs that pay livable wages (National Adult Literary Survey).
3.Who else ranks as functionally illiterate? 3 out of every 4 people on welfare, 85% of unwed mothers, 68% of those arrested, and 3 out of every 5 prison inmates (Washington Literacy Council).
The bottom line is, if a child doesn’t master literacy skills, they will enter the workforce at a severe disadvantage.
Why should we celebrate literacy?
Nobody learns to throw a football on their first try. Or their tenth try. You can’t learn to play basketball if you only ever play it in gym class. A new skill has to be practiced. The children have to own the skill if there's any hope of them mastering it. Most children get into sports programs because their parents and their peers are passionate about those sports. And that communal passion is infectious. But there is no paralleled passion for literacy skills. We have book fairs and spelling bees in schools, but we don’t have a National Writer’s League producing televised Friday Night Poetry Slams. We don’t have kids forming writers’ circles.
Like football or baseball, reading and writing take a lot of practice. Because there is no real communal passion behind demonstrations of literacy competency, most children only practice these skills when it is required of them. This means not nearly enough children enjoy the acts of reading and writing, and fewer own the fruits of their accomplishments.
That’s where we come in. Working with homeschool and public school students, we teach creative writing courses through our Anthology Program. This 4-week course is filled with games and visual prompts, engaging the children in stimulating and challenging tasks. We break the process of writing a story into manageable chunks. Once the children have written and edited their story, we gather them up, give them a polish edit and publish them in anthology form. Because the children go into the program knowing that they’ll be rewarded for their efforts by becoming a published author, we find they become enthusiastic, eager partners in creating the content for the book.
At the end of the program, each child is presented with a complimentary copy of the book in which their work appears. By investing our time and money in their creative product, we’re showing them that writing—and writing well—is an important skill to have. And the pride these kids demonstrate when they show their friends and family that they’ve become published authors is a reward in and of itself. Copies of the books are distributed to the schools and local library as well, and made available for sale to help fund future runs of the Anthology Program.
We ran a pilot program last year, producing a book titled “Seven Stories from Seven Children”. This year, we’re going to create a volume comprised of stories from 8th graders in the Searcy County School District.
The program is inexpensive, but it isn’t free. Even utilizing a lot of volunteer efforts, we still have to cover publication costs and shipping. We use Createspace, an Amazon Company, who can produce books Print on Demand, which means we only have to purchase the number of copies we reasonably expect to need. We’re hoping with this program we can print up 50 copies of the book for distribution to the participating children, the local library, and to qualifying campaign contributors.
Factoring in resources used for the workshops, and production and shipping of the books, we expect an operating cost of $4.50 per book. Add to that Kickstarter and Amazon's payment processing fees, 10% for unexpected costs, rate-changes, etc., we’re confident we can run this year’s program for $300.
Thank you for taking the time to check out our Kickstarter campaign. Please help spread the word, and forward this to your Facebook friends and Twitter followers.
Risks and challenges
The potential risks and challenges associated with this project are minimal. The primary risks involve delays in the process. Much of the work for this project will be done by the English teacher with the school district, in class and with the students at home. If a majority of the students are unable to get their stories in to the teacher on time, if the teacher is forced to juggle the order of her curriculum for a sudden need, these could set back the editing and layout of the manuscript. Once we have the stories, we anticipate editing, layout and proofing of the manuscript will take less than 2 months. Printing can be completed within a week.
We've set the goal to get the books to the children and begin shipping them to the contributors in early February 2015. If there are any delays of more than two weeks, we will notify the campaign contributors who would be affected by it (i.e., to notify them that their book may be arriving a bit late).
Other than that, the only real risk we face in our endeavor is simple and unavoidable. Paper cuts.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (27 days)