There are deserts that span vast distances around the world. They lack the resources to support the diversity of life seen in
places that have sufficient environmental conditions that allow for growth of foliage allowing animals to live, survive and thrive.
The definition of a desert by Wikipedia is:
“A desert is a barren area of landscape where little precipitation occurs and consequently living conditions are hostile for plant and animal life.” The application of this definition in many ways can be applied to under-served communities across this nation that suffer from lack of educational materials promoting reading.
Even though there are books in schools, libraries and community centers conditions may not be motivating for children in under-served communities.
Looking at the Twitter tags #BookDeserts, #BookDesert, #ReadingDeserts, there is a serious discussion promoting literacy
in communities. When there are children that love to read it can be challenging to find materials that excite them and their passion to learn about the areas they love.
Stated by Derrick Young (Mahogany Books in Washington, D.C.) about book deserts, “A book desert isn’t a community-created
situation.” Derek Young states, “It’s because other people have decided not to invest into these communities. It’s not because these communities aren’t readers.”
As an educator and two children attending universities I understand that education is an investment that has long term
applications, people living in distressed areas are on survival mode and not seeing long term events because they are surviving from day to day. Aida a mother and grandmother understands
the value and importance of reading. She taught her children that reading is a foundation to educational success.
As an inner city Title 1 teacher over 20 years I have seen students attention directed to just living, not worrying about where the next book will be coming from.
So books may not be available to inspire reading. Studies in 2015 and 2016 have shown that book deserts exist when there is a rise in income segregation, lack of infrastructure investment or financial stability is affected by job loss, incarceration and even when a school receives a failing grade on state assessments and funds are cut.
Negatively impacting a family’s and community’s capability to provide reading material. The focus changes and diminishes the chances of academic success. The impact on adults is big as well,
children do not see their parents reading the newspaper or books so they do not have role models or engagement to talk
about the news and current events.
Even neighborhood libraries face challenges because their materials maybe old, outdated and not culturally relevant. If a child does not see themselves in a book they may not want to read it if there is no previous exposure. Jacksonville Public Libraries often work within communities to provide resources and materials that broaden the vision of children and create a welcoming environment for Black, Latina, White, Asian, etc. There are still some parents that do not access the resources because of their lack of reading skills or past experiences.
In Jacksonville, Florida there are book stores “Chamblin” that have books bursting out of the walls to be purchased and can even be returned in exchange at a lower cost for other books. Teachers can even have accounts setup for their classrooms so students can purchase books and the teacher can pay for all or part of the book.
In this digital age where information sharing, collaboration and knowledge-based application is important. Reading is an essential skill that transcends generations, genders, lifestyles and cultures. Communities of color sometimes lack the educational investments necessary to inspire children, youth, teens and young adults to read, but parents do guide their children to educational success
and movement, parents are the first role models by modeling.
Too often the societal perception and even the media has the idea that people in challenged or poor neighborhoods don’t care about the achievement of their children. This is further from the truth, parents in under-served neighborhoods want the best for their children, because of circumstances in finances, educational lacking, and other social issues do not have the means to provide proper and lasting resources.
Bookstores like “Chamblin” and Jacksonville Public Libraries fill the gap in book deserts so long as there is proper investment and a vision for growth and success to meet the needs of diverse communities.
Parents make 2018 the year of engagement with your children to get them to enjoy reading. Make it a part of your and their life every day. Over 200 Books for and about People of Color and Culture.