One time I remember hearing a story about this lady who said to a friend, “Did I ever tell you about my grandkids?” To which her friend replied, “No, and I sure want to thank you.” There is no doubt about it, for those of us who have grandchildren, they are the apple of our eye and we love them more than anything in the whole wide world. It is in this vein that I would like to share a positive idea with you today that could make a real difference in the lives of thousands, perhaps millions, of grandchildren all across our great nation.

Over the past several years you have heard me talk many times about the importance of literacy as it relates to a person’s future success and happiness. Whether you realize it or not, we have a crisis in relation to literacy in our country and it is not getting better. In fact it is getting worse, and there are many reasons why this is true. One of the main reasons is that very young children in low-income families do not have any books to read in their home. These children grow older and enter school with no literacy foundational skills and become candidates for dropping out of school. Here in my community we have been giving personalized bookcases and a starter set of books to children in the Head Start program for the past 13 years. When they receive a bookcase, these children are 4 years of age, and in many cases it is already too late for many of them.

As I thought about this situation, I began to realize there is a great source of educated, talented and loving people in our nation who can change this from being negative to being positive. Of course I am talking about those grandparents who love their grandchildren and can spend some quality reading time with them. Here let me be quick to say that the responsibility for preparing children to enter school lies with the parents, but in many cases both parents work and come home too tired to spend quality time with their children by reading to them on a regular basis. In many cases, this is when grandparents can be most helpful.

Almost from the crib, all children need to begin to develop foundational literacy skills and be exposed to books and other quality learning tools. For parents who can afford to purchase a small bookcase, even with a child’s nameplate affixed to it, this would be a great investment to begin the child’s educational journey. In fact, there could be a bookcase in the child’s home, and grandparents could also have one in their home to read to their grandchildren when the opportunity comes about. Schedules could and should be worked out to make reading a priority with grandparents on a regular basis.

In the future I will be talking with the director of our Senior Citizen Center about our bookcase project and helping them with the cost of a children’s library. This would make books available to members to check out and use to read to their grandchildren, and perhaps even to other children in low-income families. At this point let me say that I certainly don’t have all the answers, but this is an idea that has merit and can be fine-tuned to get loving, willing grandparents in a position to read to their grandchildren several times each week. I hope you will give this idea some thought, because the need is real and we can contribute greatly to improving literacy all across our great nation. If you have ideas along these lines, please share them with me.