I thought book hunger only affected less fortunate families.
Now even we are pinched for reading material.
Illustrations by Rajiv Eipe, via http://storyweaver.org.in
I've spent years researching solutions to book scarcity.
Half of America's kids don't get enough to read, because money is too tight.
Worldwide, one billion children have virtually no reading material.
Over the long term, book hunger is almost as dangerous as the regular kind.
Early and consistent access to reading material is essential to literacy skills.
And fluent literacy is key to academic success and escape from poverty.
Researching book hunger made clear how blessed my own family is.
We own hundreds of children's books. School and libraries offer us many more.
But now the COVID 19 pandemic is complicating access to books, even for us.
My middle daughter is in kindergarten this year.
She needs a steady diet of easy books to build fluency.
Variety is essential; she can enjoy almost any book... once.
Most of the books our family owns are too difficult for her.
We own only twenty or so at her current level.
That's an investment of a few hundred dollars.
It is still nowhere near enough.
She used to access several a week at school.
We also borrowed a dozen at a time from the public library.
With schools and libraries closed, we still have options many families do not.
We can afford high speed Internet and a device for every family member.
We get ebooks and audiobooks from our public library and Amazon.
For my ten-year-old, these solutions are working well.
I dedicated an old Kindle for her use, and loaded it up.
She already reads long books; a single one lasts hours.
But my four-year-old and six-year-old really miss "real" books.
The kind a kid can spot lying around, and be inspired to pick up.
The kind that don't run out of power or offer a million distractions.
As important as reading is to me, we're doing less of it now than before.
So are more than one billion other kids out of school right now.
Today is World Book Day, and it has never been more urgent.
A leading charity addressing book hunger is Pratham Books.
They offer fantastic and free digital stories at http://storyweaver.org.in.
You can find Rajiv Eipe's books there, and thousands more, in 200+ languages.
If this issue matters to you, I'm excited to present Ending Book Hunger.
Download the full text for free this week, thanks to Yale University Press.
Book hunger is a solvable problem. Find out how...
Illustrations by Rajiv Eipe, from A Book for Puchku written by Deepanjana Pal, published by Pratham Books (©Pratham Books, 2017) under a CC BY 4.0 license on StoryWeaver.
Read, create and translate stories for free on www.storyweaver.org.in