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READING AWAY INCARCERATION ONE BOOK AT A TIME

 

I had a delightful afternoon at the Annual Spring Talk luncheon sponsored by the Liriodendron Foundation. Book lovers, librarians, and teachers gathered at the historic mansion to hear the latest recommendations by staff librarians for new books and old favorites.

There was something for everyone, from adults to kids. Reading a book opens the door for so many opportunities and introduces the reader to new worlds never dreamed of. Since I was a kid, I have always been a voracious reader.

Can you imagine what it would be like if you couldn't read or write? The many opportunities lost that we take for granted because of our reading skills.

I was shocked to learn at the recent forum “Disrupting the School-to-Prison Pipeline” put on by Together We Will (TWW) that 85% of all juveniles, who come into contact with the juvenile court system, are functionally illiterate. So are 60% of all prison inmates. Some studies show even higher rates.

When inmates received literacy help, the return rate to prison was 16% as opposed to 70% for those who received no help. An article from InvisibleChildren.Org projected costs to taxpayers at $25,000 per year, per inmate, and nearly double that for juveniles in their juvenile justice systems.

One of my favorite bumper stickers reads, “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”

Properly funding education includes underwriting our library system, which provides numerous outreach programs for both children and adults and helps to supplement school curriculum. In the class rooms, we need to have in place safety nets to make sure those falling behind, aren't left behind.

I believe in getting to the root of a problem, rather than plastering it over with Band-Aid remedies that just let the problem continue to fester and grow. We can continue to spend money locking people up, only to have them return, or we can invest money in getting rid of the problem --- illiteracy.

For me, education is a better return on our investment.
When is the last time you read a book? What was it?

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Authorization, Friends of Karen Kukurin, Treasurer Rita Scharmann

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