What We Do
In their most recent survey, the National Assessment of Educational Progress found that only about 33% of students can understand and explain what they have read. Literacy profoundly impacts college attainment and success, and becomes harder to achieve when many schools are not equally funded and not all teachers are afforded the same certifications and training.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, approximately 43,000,000 adults in the United States possess low literacy skills. These individuals are able to read, but at a reduced level that limits their opportunities for higher education and employment, and can even impact their ability to vote or file their taxes.
A child that graduates from 8th grade with low literacy can be impacted for the rest of their life, but this does not have to be the case. Through early intervention, strengthening communities, and providing much-needed resources, we can increase equity and access for students, one book at a time.
In 2019, the National Council of Teachers of English put forth that four decades of research has established that independent, pleasurable reading is crucial to literacy development. It helps expand students’ vocabularies, increase comprehension, and improve their writing. Our approach focuses on not only giving students access to books, but providing parents and teachers with resources and programming to instill a lifelong love of reading that benefits students in many different ways.
Access to Books
Book ownership is a critical aspect of our program, because we believe a large part of encouraging independent reading is rooted in the excitement of choosing and owning a book. We partner with Scholastic and local nonprofit organizations to provide two book fairs per year to individual schools.
These fairs are provided at no cost to the school or students, so students can expand their personal libraries without financial concern. Students get to choose ten books, five at each fair, to add to their own personal library. A student who completes the program in its entirety will have about 100 books upon graduation from eighth grade.
The Global Family Research Project has found strong correlation between family involvement and childhood literacy. When parents are engaged in their child’s reading and are connected with their child’s teachers, the results are students with strong language and literacy competencies.
Throughout the school year, students get the opportunity to engage with bestselling children’s authors and attend family events that encourage a shared love of reading and provide parents with the tools to more actively engage students at home.
We believe that a large part of creating equity is ensuring educators and parents have the tools to encourage growth as readers and writers, both in and out of the classroom. According to the Department of Education, over 40% of schools in low income areas do not receive adequate state and local funds. Inequitable distribution of funding impacts more than textbooks and facilities; it limits teachers’ ability to certify to teach advanced courses and impacts their ability to assist students with learning disabilities.
As part of our program, Scholastic also matches 50% of every $1 spent on books for students in “Scholastic Dollars”. These credits allow schools to purchase everything from much needed school supplies to family engagement events to classroom technology or even more books.
Starting in 2020, My Very Own Library is partnering with authors and artists across the country to create a series of virtual read alouds for students as a response to the COVID-19 crisis. We hope to continue creating content to inspire readers, bring families together, and support educators in helping students grow, both for the duration of this period and long after.
The University of Chicago My Very Own Library Program opens a door for young people, families, communities, schools and partners to coalesce around one major access point–Reading. With our work with Scholastic Book Fairs and local bookstores in every city, we are partnering to provide the groundwork for success in school and in life through book access. My life and career as an educator, parent, brother, uncle and husband has been defined by the power of reading and writing.
Duane B. Davis, Executive Director K-12 Education Initiatives
(pictured to the left Duane Davis with New York Times Best Selling author, Tomi Adeyemi at the Gary Comer Youth Center in Chicago January 24, 2020)