The Challenge: Low Literacy Skills
The low level of literacy proficiency has long been a serious problem in rural communities of China. In China, primary school children in economically disadvantaged areas face numerous challenges in their pursuit of a quality education. Some kids have to walk more than 5-10 miles to school every day. Many of these areas heavily depend on agriculture and related activities as a dominant sector of the local economy, with minimal industrial development. So, most schools in these areas have very limited resources and are not able to offer adequate literacy education to students. Moreover, parents mostly play a very limited role in children’s literacy development due to their own low literacy skills. Therefore, many parents cannot help with their child’s reading, writing or other academic skill development.
Primary school children in these areas have much lower literacy skills—skills in reading, writing, and oral presentation—and low academic achievement, compared with children of a similar age in developed areas. The limited literacy education in preschool through primary school negatively impacts academic success throughout the school years, and leads to a cumulative disadvantage for children over the long term. These detriments substantially reduce the chance for success in their adult lives.
In China, about 70% of children live in rural areas,
while they own only 12% of children’s books.
Our Solution: Bring Books to Children
These children mostly have very limited access to books and had little or no literacy education during early childhood, which greatly hinders their development in literacy and academic success. Thus, bringing books to children is the first and very important step in their literacy development. Research finds that having access to a wide variety of books and other reading materials is essential for children to develop reading skills. Moreover, reading frequency alone is highly correlated with reading performance.
When we visited these children at their school and asked what they wanted the most, many students answered: “Books.” They could never imagine sitting in an air-conditioned classroom in winter or summer; they have never touched a computer; they often have to have cold lunch even during the winter simply because there is no stove or microwave at their school. The list of deprivation could go on and on, but despite these kinds of harsh conditions, books are what they wanted the most.
In order to help more children have books to read, we set up a small book corner in each classroom at the rural schools we have provided assistance. Each book corner usually contains one solid bookcase and 200 up-to-date, age-appropriate books. Every year, a class of 30-40 kids will benefit from this book corner.