COLUMBUS, Ga (WRBL) – Warren Steele, Team Leader for Ferst Readers of Muscogee County, recently went to Lonnie Jackson Academy to read and give away books to students to combat childhood illiteracy in Muscogee County.
Childhood illiteracy is an issue that heavily impacts multiple children around the United States, and Muscogee County is no different.
According to Ferst Readers, around 5,000 children in Muscogee county live in poverty. Statistics have shown that of the children that live in poverty, around 60% do not have suitable reading material at home.
The organization was founded by Robin Ferst in Madison, Ga. and has spread all over Georgia and other states, such as South Carolina and Texas. Fest Readers combats childhood illiteracy by sending a book monthly to children under 5 years old. However, to Steele, the problem is bigger than just sending books to children.
“It’s talking with kids, it’s interacting with kids, it’s asking questions, it’s playing with kids, and so for us the books are a way to help parents engage and interact with their children,” said Steele.
Steele became inspired to begin a Ferst Readers program in the county through his experience reading to struggling students at JD Davis Elementary. He was also influenced by his daughter who detailed a story about a student not receiving their first book until the 3rd grade.
“It just breaks your heart,” said Steele, “I mean you know there are needs in the community but when you’re that close to it and your own child says ‘I’m not sure how that could be true. How could a third grader say that she’s never had a book before?’”
According to Lonnie Jackson Academy Principal, Amia Hamilton, the best students at the school typically began reading at an early age. Students who begin reading earlier are less likely to drop out of school and will be overall more successful at school.
“Once you learn to read, which usually occurs until about second grade, then academics shifts to reading for the purpose of learning. But if you don’t build a strong foundation of learning to read, then reading to learn becomes just quicksand,” said Hamilton.
Parents can enroll their child in Ferst Readers of Muscogee County on their website and they can find additional resources on the site as well.