September 23, 2019

What book sparked your love of reading? Read it to the young people in your life.

October 8 is National Read to a Child Day. Let’s foster a love of reading in children across the country.

The author, a lifelong reader, and her dad. Today Margaret Carr is the National Vice President of Development at the nonprofit Read to a Child.

One of my earliest childhood memories is my mother sitting next to me on my bed reading Charlotte’s Web out loud during a hot and muggy summer in Rhode Island. As the electric fan cooled my bedroom, I remember the nightly excitement as we followed the unlikely friendship of Wilbur the pig, and Charlotte the spider. I was brought to tears when Charlotte’s life came to an end and I was quickly delighted when her babies were born to carry on her light. This nightly ritual of my parents reading aloud to me showed me the joy of reading that has carried through to this day.

When I read a book that captures my interest, it takes me to a place that transforms my everyday life to one where my imagination takes me to visit foreign lands, studies the layers that comprise fascinating heroes and heroines, or enmeshes me in a mystery that is hard to put down.

My love of reading has served many purposes. It has created a foundation for social connections through informal and formal book discussions, served as a tool for academic success, and allowed me to take an interesting career journey.

Just over a year ago, I began to look for a new career opportunity that allowed me to use my newly acquired doctorate in Education, while also utilizing my experience in development, marketing, and public relations. I knew my next step needed to be in a mission-driven organization that focused on education. My career had gone a bit adrift and I needed to find an organization that made me excited to get up in the morning. This is how I found Read to a Child. I needed them as much as they needed me.

Read to a Child is a national, nonprofit organization with a mission to foster a love of reading, improve literacy skills, and empower underserved children by inspiring adults to read to them regularly. Adult volunteers are paired one-on-one with at-risk elementary aged students to read aloud during lunchtime weekly. The concept is simple, but the issue of childhood literacy in the United States is complicated and not well understood by the general public.

Most people do not know that:

  • One in four children in the United States grow up without learning to read
  • Students are over four times more likely to drop out of school if they are unable to read proficiently by the end of 3rd grade
  • 2/3 of low-income students who cannot read proficiently by 4th grade will spend time in jail or on welfare. Over 70 percent of America’s inmates cannot read above a 4th grade level.

When I first began to study the issue of childhood literacy, I was surprised and saddened. Then I began to witness the success of our Lunchtime Reading Program and was motivated to do more and spread the news of the importance of reading to children. I witnessed the incredible power and transformation that occurs when caring adults read to children. A love of reading is fostered, literacy skills improve and, ultimately, a child becomes empowered through improved self-confidence and self-esteem.

But the question became how do we stress the importance of reading to children at a young age? This is how National Read to a Child Day was born. On Tuesday, October 8, and we are inviting people from all over the country to put down the phone, pick up a book, find an appropriate child, and read to them individually or in groups. Schools, authors and celebrities will amplify the message through social media and live reading events at our five regions throughout the country. To share your own story, please use #Readtoachild on social media.

We hope this will serve as a call to action for people to get involved in solving the literacy crisis in the United States. The small step of reading to a child can have a life-long effect. I think about the little blond girl who looked forward to Charlotte’s Web many summers ago. The seed was planted by my parents and has grown to branches that support others in their journey of reading.

Margaret Carr

Margaret Carr

Read to a Child

Margaret Carr is National Vice President of Development at the nonprofit Read to a Child. Most recently an adjunct professor at Lesley University and Director of Development and Marketing at South Shore Mental Health, Margaret has a strong track record of growing awareness and philanthropic revenue at a wide variety of mission-driven organizations. Prior to South Shore Mental Health, Margaret held key positions at Stonehill College, Good Samaritan Medical Center, Sister to Sister, Carney Hospital, and Visiting Nurse Associations.

Her favorite children’s book is The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn.