When Janie Wolf, of the University of Phoenix, saw statistics about the relationship between childhood reading and adult success, she knew she had to act.
Wolf joined with Reading Tree, a nonprofit organization that collects used books and sets up lending libraries in low-income schools. Now the school is holding a book drive until April 23. Large, waterproof blue bins are at each campus, so people can donate at their convenience.
According to the Reading Tree website (www.readingtree.org), in low-income neighborhoods, the ratio of books is one book for every 300 kids. Sixty-one percent of low-income families have no age-appropriate books in the home.
Among adults at the lowest level of literacy proficiency, 43 percent live in poverty. Among adults with strong literacy skills, only 4 percent live in poverty.
Wolf, a human resource specialist at the University of Phoenix and the organizer of the book drive, said it’s important for young children to have access to books because it engages them in learning.
"We really do believe a book is just as important as an iPod or anything else, because it opens a new world for kids," she said.
Youngsters who are engaged in learning are less likely to drop out of school.
"More than one million kids drop out of school each year, at a national cost of over $240 billion in lost earnings, tax revenues and direct social services costs," said Wolf.
A child’s mind is much like a new computer: It requires proper programming.
"Children with access to books are much more prepared for kingergarten," said Wolf.
All types of books are being collected. Children’s books that are in good shape will go directly to children in Utah; others will be sold to help pay for other books and costs.
Wolf said if there is a message she can get out, it is not to throw away old or obsolete books, but to donate them to help kids.
Reading Tree Regional Operations Coordinator Tyler Hincy said that since the organization began eight years ago, 2.2 million books have been given to children in the U.S.
The organization began in Boston as Hands Across the Water, giving books to foreign countries
Hincy said they soon realized a need within the U.S. The organization has been in Utah for nearly a year and has already given more than 20,000 books to needy children in Utah.
Dee Elementary and James Madison Elementary schools in Ogden each received 7,000 books from the organization. The books are given to students in Title I schools.
Hincy, who earned his MBA from University of Phoenix, said the partnership makes sense.
"What better investment could the University of Phoenix make in their future students than to teach them proper study habits?" he said.
Hincy credits his access to books as a child and learning good study habits early for being able to earn his MBA and said he hopes to help many children learn the same skills through the program.