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The relationship between poverty and literacy is well-known and intuitive: adults who can’t read well are more likely to have lower-paying jobs, if they can find employment at all. We also know there’s a relationship between income and academic performance, that poorer kids earn lower scores on standardized tests and are less likely to graduate high school than their more affluent counterparts. Those children grow up to find themselves in the same situation as their parents: low income, poor reading skills, and raising children who’ll likely continue the cycle.
The Uprise Books Project is dedicated to ending that cycle of poverty. By providing lower income teens with new banned and challenged literature, we feel there’s an excellent opportunity to establish the love of reading that will lead to increased literacy, higher rates of college attendance and greater earning potential later in life. A recent RIF-commissioned study seems to support our hypothesis, concluding that lack of access to books is a big part of the problem. Poorer kids tend to have fewer books in the home, live farther from public libraries and attend underfunded schools. According to the study, “one possible remedy to the socioeconomic gaps in academic achievement is to make sure that children of low-income families have access to high-quality, age-appropriate books.”
Why focus on banned and challenged books? From a fundraising perspective, we believe it adds an additional element that could attract would-be contributors. "Not only are you encouraging a kid to read and fighting poverty, you're also battling ignorance and protecting First Amendment rights! Win/win!" More importantly, though, we think it would encourage the students to actually take part in the program.
Simply getting books to kids is a great first step, but it's not enough for the poorer teens.
These students are more likely to have negative peer pressure working against them. Learning, knowledge, reading... all of that tends to be frowned upon by the kids we're trying to reach (and, sadly, by many of the adults in their lives). At best, it's "nerdy," at worst, it's "selling out." Banned and challenged books provide them with a shield to use against that pressure. Instead of reading a great work of literature, they're breaking the rules and discovering what THEY (parents, adults, the establishment, etc.) don't want them to know.