But how many of those children are reading at grade level? And how many of these children really love to read?
So well, I guess, that most of America knows me for my chocolate chip cookies. But few people know that, as an author of nine books, I worked hard for 25 years in the forefront of promoting adult literacy.
I believe that words and ideas are at the essence of civilization -- and the importance of transferring knowledge, concepts and wisdom from generation to generation is essential for our free society. With so many of our young children hardly reading, I believe it is time to act boldly.
My wife, Christine, and I created the Read It Loud Foundation with a distinct purpose: to build awareness of the values and benefits and importance of reading aloud as a way to bridge the literacy gap.
I believe that the single most important activity for building knowledge required for eventual success in reading is reading aloud to children -- even if it's just for 10 minutes a day.
Reading aloud prepares children for learning to read and to keep them reading as they learn and grow. Reading aloud creates a special time to bond with children. Laughing together at silly characters, rooting for heroes and wagging your fingers at villains nurtures the love of both the written and spoken word.
But you don't have to take my word for it. According to the U.S. Department of Education, reading aloud has proven to increase language acquisition and literacy development, leading to better achievement in reading comprehension and overall success in school. It's proven to stimulate the imagination, creativity, curiosity and the pleasure of reading. And reading out loud has proven to develop a positive attitude toward learning.
I realize, however, that not every child has a parent to read to them and that not every parent can afford to purchase books for his or her children.
But whether you support a formal organization or not, I want to encourage you this school year to read aloud to your child. Just like Aunt Della did with me. Just like I did with my daughter when she was growing up -- I too read to her each day, and she is now quite the success! Just like I continue to do every day with those I meet. Because reading needs to be something children can do and that they love doing. No amount of educational spending will do this for a child; only a caring adult can.
And if you don't have any children or grandchildren of your own, read to a neighbor's child or volunteer your time reading to school-age children at your local school or library. Or show up at one of your local community organizations. Better yet, bake some cookies and bring them along with you.
Wally Amos has authored nine books, including his most recent, "Watermelon Credo." He and his wife, Christine, formed the Read it Loud Foundation to help close the socioeconomic literacy gap by motivating parents and guardians to read aloud to their children and by providing the books to do so. Read his blog on Red Room.