The Richard L. Bean Juvenile Service Center houses kids ages 12-17, but their reading levels generally only meet between 2nd- and 7th-grade standards. When children and teens regularly question where to find their next meal or sleep from one night to the next, reading and education are often not one of their priorities.
Since literacy is directly linked to recidivism and social mobility, Held Law Firm has partnered with the juvenile center to change this. That's where we - and more importantly, the kids - need your help.
The center has a small library, but it relies on books that don't really reflect the reading abilities of the children held there. The library generally contains advanced textbooks, books written for very small children, and other materials that they either can't easily read or have little interest in reading.
As you might imagine, finding books that are relevant and interesting to this age group, but written at a level they can comprehend, can be difficult. The books they might enjoy are not often the same books as those they are able to read, and not the books that they currently have access to.
Despite these challenges, the kids have already taken the initiative to put together a list of genres and topics they might enjoy, plus specific books that they would like to read.
Bottom line: we need to meet their requests. If they ask for a book, we need to do everything possible to get it into their hands. This makes reading enjoyable, which in turn improves literacy, which in turn greatly improves the chances they will succeed later in life. And let's face it: they need all the support we can give them.
We are thankful for the logistical assistance we have already received from the community, particularly from Union Avenue Books and the Juvenile Service Center staff, and for the interest expressed in the program by the kids themselves - but books aren't free. The initial list of titles, even after the significant discounts provided by our community partners, is expected to cost some serious money. We hope to provide enough funds to keep The Literacy Project going indefinitely.
This program will stock the library with more suitable books over time, give some control to kids who generally have none, and reinforce to kids that their choices do affect other people, and do matter. While a single book may not turn a child’s entire life around, fostering literacy at every opportunity will.
These kids are counting on us. If we don't provide them with this opportunity to succeed, who will?