SHAKER HEIGHTS, Ohio — Two out of three Clevelanders are functionally illiterate and the problem starts during childhood.
News 5 is committed to overcoming those statistics by partnering with the Scripps Howard Foundation for our “If You Give a Child a Book…” campaign.
This week, you can help us put books into the hands of children from low-income families—furthering their education, fueling their dreams and breaking the cycle of poverty.
While picking out books at the Shaker Heights Library, D’yair Gray, 11, and Derrick Smith, 10, know exactly what they’re looking for.
“I like to read true stories, nonfiction books, some books that have a meaning in them,” said D’yair.
“Comic books, sports books, and mainly history books,” said Derrick.
They both love reading, and know how much it matters.
“Learning lots of new words and if it's a history book I learned a lot of new things that I probably don't know,” said Derrick.
“Well, it helps you increase your academic skill and it also helps you listen better,” said D’yair.
They know that thanks to lessons started at home.
For D’yair, those lessons happen around her grandmother’s kitchen table.
“They know that coming along with the pancakes, comes a book, and some sight words and some vocabulary challenges to help them grow,” said Patricia Gray, D’yair’s grandmother.
That work is paying off. D’yair has now been in honors classes since the second grade.
“I used to not put out correct grammar. So reading helped me actually learn my words,” said D’yair.
Like D’yair, Derrick's mom also made reading at home a priority.
He's been collecting books since he was just three-years-old.
“Whenever I go over to my dad's house, I have like a whole bookshelf of books,” said Derrick, “And here at my mom's house, almost my whole dresser is filled with books.”
But his passion got him negative attention at school from bullies.
“I was reading, I was doing so good and then three, four girls started picking on me, that kind of got me concerned,” said Derrick. “They were saying I was too smart, I knew too much.”
It would have been easy to just give in, but Derrick said he eventually learned to not let the bullies bother him, and now he’s writing his own book about his experience.
He also gives free books out to other young boys through his non-profit, Boys Do Read. He started it after being inspired by Literacy in the H.O.O.D., the non-profit run by his mom, Chrishawndra Matthews.
“It feels great, because I know many people don't have books at home,” said Derrick.
Studies show having books at home makes all the difference for kids.
Adding 10 books to a child’s home library per year through middle school helps their literacy level increase.
“Thank God for the book donations, and being able to get books,” said Patricia Gray.
Both Derrick and D’yair have big dreams.
“I would like to go to an HBCU College, and I want to be a lawyer,” said D’yair.
With the power of literacy behind them, they know exactly how to reach them.
“My education is the most important thing in my life, because my education helps me get a job. It helps me do a lot,” said Derrick.
To donate to the Scripps Howard Foundation’s “If You Give a Child a Book” campaign, click here.
Every $5 donated buys one book for a child at Wade Park School in Cleveland.
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