If everyone could read and write we would all be better off. Making the World literate would mean $1.19 trillion USD more in the global economy, which would mostly benefit the people who need it most. Illiteracy isn't a far off problem in a far off place. It’s affecting all of us.
World Literacy Foundation (2012)
First Book is fighting to abolish illiteracy by giving books to the poorest families across the U.S. They are partnered with many programs inspire kids to read more.
Antwon was 13 when his stepfather died. With no other options, Antwon began selling drugs, and later was caught and jailed. After his son was born, Antwon contacted First Book, and received some books and materials to teach his children to read, so they can have a better future.
Antwon grew up in one of the poorest housing developments in Washington DC, where many families live off as little as $7000 USD per year. He lived with his Mother, Stepfather and his four step siblings.
When Antwon was thirteen, his Stepfather died, cutting off most of the financial support that the family relied upon. Antwon’s mother was able to work on and off, but she wasn’t able to earn enough to support all five children.
As the oldest child, Antwon felt a lot of responsibility to help support his family, but he was still too young to get a job.
“I got into street life. I was selling drugs.”
After getting deeper and deeper into street life, Antwon was eventually arrested and incarcerated. Whilst imprisoned, he got news that his mother passed away due to a stress-induced seizure.
A few weeks before his release, Antwon was hit with a realization. “I had children, and I couldn’t do nothing for them but stand on the block all day. I needed a job. I needed to stay off the streets.”
That’s when Antwon contacted First Book’s partner Smart From the Start. They provided him with books and resources to make him and his wife their child’s first teachers. And he also completed an empowerment course for young fathers.
He is working as a plumber whilst studying for his GED with dreams of becoming a firefighter. Now a father of three, Antwon reads to them as often as he can.
“I want to motivate them to do better than I have done – finish school, get a good jobs; if they have kids, take care of their kids, be responsible.”
Where do you see yourself in five years?
It’s a tough question. But imagine trying to answer if you didn’t know what your life would look like tomorrow – much less years from now.
“This my students’ reality,” says Adara Robbins, an 8th grade teacher at YES Prep Southwest in Houston, Texas.
Adara’s students face the constant stress of poverty. They can’t be sure where they will sleep tomorrow. They have to take care of younger siblings, leaving limited time for homework. They have few, if any, books at home.
With so much uncertainty, it can take a lot of work for them to visualize a future where they will succeed and attend college.
But they will. By the time her students finish high school, 100% of them will be accepted to a four-year college – it’s a graduation requirement.
Many of Adara’s students come to her class up to five years behind their peers academically. As their teacher, she guides them through a demanding curriculum that brings them up to grade level and inspires a genuine love of learning. Neither could happen without having great books to give them.
“Because of First Book, my kids have the books they need to become strong, confident, enthusiastic readers,” says Adara. “They’ve grown academically. They get along better with one another. They love and constantly ask for more books. My students are simply happier when they start their day reading.”
Adara’s students also work extremely hard. They attend school from 7:30am to 4:30pm, often staying late for extra help.
“Their tenacity and determination inspires me to do a better job every day.”
$9,671 is the difference between the average annual income of high school dropout and graduate.
Every student who doesn’t complete high school costs our society $260,000 in lost earnings, taxes and productivity.