One in four children in our country grows up functionally illiterate, according to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy. Did you know we spend $2 billion nationally every year on students repeating a grade because they face challenges reading? The state of Connecticut currently sees the second largest wealth inequality in the United States. While the state ranks as the fourth richest in the United States, children are still in need.

According to The Achievement Gap Task Force in a report to the Connecticut General Assembly “the percentage of third-grade Hispanic students who met goal in reading (27 percent) is roughly 40 percentage points lower than white students (67 percent).”

Without support, children in Hartford will become adults with low literacy skills facing barriers to their full potential.

Studies show direct access to books is a big part of the problem! If children have access to books, their interest in reading grows as well as their increased desire to learn. Our fraternity of more than 200,000 women is united in the cause to promote the importance of reading.

It is our goal to impact one million lives through our philanthropic platform, Read > Lead > Achieve®. As part of this plan, we are hosting a large-scale literacy service event in Hartford for Pi Beta Phi’s annual Fraternity Day of Service, celebrated around March 2 in honor of Dr. Seuss’® birthday.

This year’s event will take place on Feb. 25 and will help to put books in the hands of children who need them most. Pi Beta Phi is donating 20,000 brand new books to Hartford groups serving low-income families at a book distribution through Pi Beta Phi’s partnership with First Book®.

We believe decreasing illiteracy is one of THE most important causes. Literacy is at the foundation of most issues in the United States, including poverty. The cycle of poverty cannot be overcome because illiterate children and adults have poor educational and employment opportunities. This is why we believe learning to read and having access to books is so important.

Students are five times more likely to graduate if they have supportive adult relationships. We encourage those of you who can, to help us get new books into the hands of children in need. Help Pi Beta Phi instill a love of reading in Hartford’s youth. Help us build for the future … one child … one moment at a time … one life changed forever. We can — and we must — do better for the children of Hartford.

Kristin Zemke is Promotions Chair of the Pi Beta Phi Fraternity Day of Service Hartford Signature Event.

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