Reading Out of Poverty | Teen Ink

Reading Out of Poverty

May 3, 2018
By SienaZamel BRONZE, Rolling Hills Estates, California
SienaZamel BRONZE, Rolling Hills Estates, California
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

Reading is easy, right? We may take for granted the structures that allowed us to relatively effortlessly learn to read. These structures include school, involved parents, accessible books, and our ability as students to purely focus on learning. But, picture a second grader who can’t ask her parents for help because they work all day to put food on the table, who still struggles to read, and who can’t find a book to practice reading. Yeah, reading isn’t easy anymore, is it?


Sadly enough, many children from poor communities can’t keep up with their grades reading level. Children living in impoverished neighborhoods have more pressing issues than a grade in a class that doesn’t provide relief from their harsh lives. Life has not afforded these children the luxury of going home from school and focusing on school work. Some days they are too busy working to study, or trying not to starve to focus on their homework. It is painfully obvious that “health matters to children’s school success”, and that these kids don’t always have the healthiest living situations or physical states.

The lack of early educational habits snowballs into bigger issues. It becomes obvious that low income and homeless students are set up for failure in high school. For many students falling behind in school can lead to them eventually dropping out as shown through the one in six student dropout rates . Once these kids get to high school and can’t read, they usually feel like it’s time for them to quit. With other options surrounding them like apprentice style education and vocational training, as well as gangs, robbery, drug dealing, and other ways that might give them quicker access to money, there is less motivation to stay in school. The fact that 75% of state prison inmates are either illiterate or high school dropouts exemplifies the spiral that may have been initiated by not supporting their early literacy efforts . Making the entire problem worse is the vicious cycle of illiteracy and poverty. Kids who can’t read become adults who can’t get a job. In the U.S. there are 36 million adults who can’t read better than the average third-grader . And out of these, 46% live in poverty .

Could the solution be as simple as throwing books at the problem? Magically, yes.  For children living in poverty in the U.S. two-thirds of them have no books at home . According, Susan B. Neuman of USC “children’s books are a rarity in high-poverty urban communities” and very inaccessible . Unfortunately, if such generic responses like throwing books as a solution could fix problems, then solutions like throwing cake at people during the French Revolution would have kept Marie Antoinette alive. Not having access to books takes away the chance of these kids trying to get better at reading.

Will the books magically teach our young, poverty ridden readers automatically? No. As the world gets more and more socially responsible, perhaps it is worthwhile to form student collisions who can not only collect children’s books and other reading materials that exist in surpluses, but to also work with teachers and city officials to directly mentor these young learners. The existing educational infrastructure is already overwhelmed by systemic problems including increasing class sizes yet reduced funding, ever lessening teacher pay, and a more competitive academic climate that pushes more and more students to give up on their educational pursuits. Reading is a clear path out of poverty, and now it’s our turn to give these students a road to a future with literacy.


  (n.d.). doi:10.1075/

  (n.d.). doi:10.1075/

  Illiteracy traps adults, and their families, in poverty. (2015, July 09).
  Illiteracy traps adults, and their families, in poverty. (2015, July 09).

  Bologna, C. (2017, December 07). 10 Awesome Book Charities That Help Kids All Over The World.

  Wong, A. (2016, July 14). Where Books Are All But Nonexistent.

The author's comments:

Reading has truly impacted my life by giving me the option to learn anything I wish. I believe all children should have the ability to gain knowledge through books. I hope that people will understand the importance of the ability to read and help someone who can't. 

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This article has 0 comments.

Julz said...
on May. 7 2018 at 7:21 pm
Truth! Love the snappy pace as you advocate for children in dire situations.

iknowyourmom said...
on May. 7 2018 at 4:55 pm
Very nicely done! I hope you can find the support to follow through with your ideas.

Peya said...
on May. 7 2018 at 2:36 pm
Wow! Amazing

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