Are you aware that more than half of U.S. public school students live in low-income households and 79% of fourth graders from low-income households do not read proficiently? This information from First Book, proves that the students falling victim to these statistics don’t have the resources they need to improve their odds. Pizza Hut: The Literacy Project, the nation’s longest-standing supporter of literacy, is set to inspire young readers across America by making sure books and educational resources get to the people who need them most.
“There are a lot of kids who don’t have access to books the way that my kids do and I did,” the father-of-three explained. “I don’t have to overstate how important reading is for your future, but there are statistics that are pretty troubling: 25 million kids can’t read proficiently and studies have shown that kids who aren’t reading proficiently by third grade are four times more likely to leave school without a diploma. Not being readers, not being literate is such an obstacle for the rest of your life.”
Knowing that only 25% of students in California school’s systems are able to perform basic reading skills, Lachey couldn’t think of a better place to begin his service than right in his own community, “I went to an elementary school here in the LA area and we handed out some books and I read Secret Pizza Party to the kids. I joked with them that if all my audiences were that enthusiastic, I would be on tour 365 days a year—they were awesome.”
For Lachey, reading was a huge part of his childhood, but for many, that is far from the case. He is confident that providing age and culturally appropriate books to children in need is a major piece of the solution. “I remember vividly from my childhood my mom reading to me and then as I became a reader I spent summer vacations driving in the motorhome to Michigan reading books all the way up and then reading books at the beach. You know I have always been a big fan of reading and I attribute that to my mom, so I have tried to pass that down to my kids. Reading gives you such an opportunity to use your imagination and exercise so many muscles,” Lachey said.
Reading continues to be a relevant aspect of Lachey’s home life—with three little ones to take care of, he understands how crucial normalizing reading in their household is. Unfortunately, many children do not have the resources they deserve to be given an equal chance at an education. Lachey encourages everyone to get on board in helping alleviate that need.
“Kids grow up seeing their parents read to them and then they get excited to do it themselves—I think it starts there," he says. "You can’t experience something and learn from something you don’t have access to."
If you want to get involved you can start by donating to Pizza Hut: The Literacy Project, but your efforts don't have to end there. Whether it's donating books to local schools, volunteering at your local libraries, initiating town book clubs, or getting hands-on with other charities such as Reach Out & Read, First Book, or Milke and Bookies, you have the power to impact a child's life.
"We live in the age where there’s so many other stimuli going on and so many other ways to have your attention captivated, but there is nothing like getting your own imaginary visuals through a book," Lachey said. "There is no substitute for that so I think the more we can promote reading and get kids interested in reading, the better off their futures and our future is going to be.”