By Worcester School Committee member John Monfredo
Worcester: The City That Reads Committee has kicked off its fourth annual G.A.B. (Give A Book) Drive; it will continue until May 15 (Spring into Books). Its goal: to place a book into the hands of children who may not be able to afford to purchase a book of their very own. This volunteer committee is headed by my wife, Anne-Marie, a former educator, and me. This organization’s objective is to promote literacy awareness across the Worcester. We have had a number of events towards this goal, and we have collected over 50,000 books during the past three years with our “Give a Book” program.
Last year 20,000 gently used and new books were collected for the children in our city. The books were distributed to the children in June for summer reading and additional books were given to social service agencies, health centers, summer school projects and other organizations that work with children. Our goal this year is to collect at least another 20,000 books and try to hit 25,000! We believe we can do it with everyone’s help!
Many people have asked me: why put the energy and time into this enormous undertaking? Well, let’s look at the facts:
Being a reader is one of the key predictors of school success. However, the teaching of the basic skills in reading is only one piece of the puzzle. The other piece is developing within each child a love for reading. Research shows that having access to a wide variety of reading materials is essential, if a child is to develop into a strong reader.
Former U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley said it best, “I can think of no higher purpose than passing on literacy and the love of reading to the next generation of Americans.”
There are some glaring national statistics that are important for us to review and all the more reason to make literacy a priority.
According to the U.S. Department of Education 44 million adults in the U.S. can’t read well enough to read a simple story to a child.
The National Adult Literacy Survey stated that children who have not developed some basic literacy skills by the time they enter school are 3-4 times more likely to drop out in later years
So strong is the link between literacy and being a useful member of society that some states use grade-level statistics as a factor in projecting future prison construction – Bob Chase, President of National Education Association. ( That is a frightening statistic )
Since 1983, more than 10 million Americans reached the 12th grade without having learned to read at a basic level. In the same period, more than 6 million Americans dropped out of high school altogether. – A Nation Still At Risk – U.S. Department of Education.
Children who watch four or more hours of TV per day have poorer reading skills than their peers who watch less TV
About 10 million children have difficulties learning to read. From 10 to 15 percent eventually drop out of high school; only 2 percent complete a four-year college program. Surveys of adolescents and young adults with criminal records show that about half have reading difficulties.
Dr. Perri Klass, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine summed these statistics best .. “Growing up without books is growing up deprived and with a deprivation that puts one at risk for failure.” On the positive side, study after study finds that the ability to read well is the single best indicator of future economic success regardless of one’s family background. And if you go back to the 1985 study by the National Commission on Reading and it still applies today.. reading aloud to children is the single most important intervention for developing their literacy skills. “
As educators we believe that few children learn to love books by themselves. Someone has to lure them into the wonderful world of the written work; someone has to show them the way… thus, it’s we, as part of this community, with our schools and parents to instill a love of reading. We start by promoting literacy.
It’s a community effort and we’d like to thank Charter Channel three for taking our theme Worcester: the City that Reads and turning it into a Channel Three weekly production and for advertising our annual Book Drive for the past three years.
We are also fortunate to have had an increase in the number of drop off sites for the public to bring their books to this year, as well as a number of additional groups working on the drive this year.
We are encouraging everyone to start their spring cleaning and look to drop off a gently used or new book from pre-k to grade 8 at the following locations:
Flagship Bank (all six city branches) including the town of Shrewsbury, Marlboro and Leominster
Commerce Bank (all four city branches) including Holden
Bay State Savings Bank (all branches)
Barnes and Noble Book Store on Lincoln Street
Worcester Public Library
Stop and Shop on Lincoln Street
Stop and Shop on Grafton Street
Stop and Shop on West Boylston Street
Shaws Market on West Boylston Street
Shaws Market at Webster Square
Price Chopper on East Mountain Street
RSVP and the Senior Center on Vernon Street
Worcester Credit Union
Starbucks Coffee on one West Boylston Street
Panera’s on West Boylston Street
Jumpin Juice Java on Chandler Street
Ben Franklin Book Store on Salem Street
Annies Book Stop on James Street
In addition, the following groups will be involved in the community Book Drive
All Worcester Public High Schools
Colleges in the Worcester County area (Worcester Consortium)
WPI, Clark University, Becker, Nichols, Holy Cross and WSC
Holy Name High School
Notre Dame Academy
St. John’s High School
Wachusett District Middle Student Council
Little Leagues of Worcester
U. Mass Memorial
UBS Financial Services
St. Vincent’s Hospital
Worcester Girl Scouts Blueberry Hill
Greendale Mall – Simon’s Group
Other schools and businesses are welcome to come aboard and help us make a difference. Remember, everyone can help in this most worthwhile community service project. Let’s bring the joy of reading to every child in our city!