KANSAS CITY, Mo. — According to a 2019 study by the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), 25 million children in the United States can't read at a proficient level.
Further, the Annie E. Casey Foundation says a child who's not reading at grade level by the end of first grade has an 88% chance of not reading at grade level by the end of fourth grade.
That's why KSHB 41 News is launching the "If You Give a Child a Book" campaign, to help get books to families in need, targeting that critical age group of kindergarten through third grade.
As one Kansas City mother shared with KSHB 41 News, the love for reading is helping her son Madden, write his own success story.
Madden, 12, says it's a passion he picked up at an early age.
"I enjoyed it when my older brother was reading to me when I was a little kid and I just started getting into reading," he said. "[My] Mom took me the library a lot."
From there, he and his family started a Kansas City book club to share that love of learning with other boys.
"So we started a book club called Royal book club for boys, at that time it was from 6 to 12 years old," Madden's mother, Tovah Tanner said. "They could come to those book club meet ups for free and we used to have book giveaways, snacks and we just have reading time."
Tanner estimates they've hosted more than 100 book clubs at the Kansas City Public Library, both the Central and Plaza locations.
Those meetings have since expanded to include boys and girls, and have proven to be a big hit in the community.
Their outreach is also helping set up future generations for success.
Experts say kids who don't read on level by the end of third grade are four times less likely to graduate high school.
One simple way to boost literacy? Putting books in kids' hands.
"Having a book, there is nothing as important as having a book at home for your kids to learn the joy of reading, to actually be interested in what they’re reading," Molly Doroba, the early learning librarian at the Kansas City Public Library said. "And that is what creates a lifelong learner."
While Doroba stresses it's important to read to your child at the youngest age possible, she also notes it's never too late to start.
Doroba recommends graphic novels for children who are struggling or who claim they don't like to read.
Not only is there less text and more pictures showcased in a "cartoon style," often times they can tackle issues ranging from bullying to feeling left out.
"I think graphic novels are a little more digestible for those tough topics that kids in that tween area need help with," Doroba said.
For Tanner, she's definitely seen the benefits of books on Madden, from building his vocabulary, to prompting him to write and publish three books of his own.
"His imagination skills have boosted through the roof! I just love seeing his growth. And he’s only 12!" Tanner said.
And for those kids who are still skeptical about the importance of reading, Madden has this advice: "It’s something that develops your brain more. And it’s something that you’d really enjoy if you gave it more of a chance."
You can help put books in kids' hands, simply by texting "KSHB" to 345345.
For every $5 you donate, that buys one book for a child in need.
To learn more about Madden's efforts to help other kids, people can visit the Royale Cohesive Network website, which is a nonprofit he helped established.
People can also visit the Royale Boy Blue website to learn more about Madden's book club.
To purchase Madden's books, people can visit the following links: