We’ve all heard of the so-called “food deserts,” which are the poor communities in urban cities across the nation where residents do not have ample access to healthy food within a certain amount of square miles.
Introducing the “book desert,” a high-poverty area where there is a very low amount of age-appropriate books for every school child in the area’s public schools and libraries. In the distressed Washington, D.C. predominantly black neighborhood of Anacostia, there is only one book for every 830 children.
This dismal reality is also the case for several other major U.S. cities, according to a research study conducted by New York University (NYU). “Children’s books are hard to come by in high-poverty neighborhoods. These ‘book deserts’ may seriously constrain young children’s opportunities to come to school ready to learn,” said Susan B. Neuman in an interview.
Neuman is a professor of literacy and childhood education at NYU Steinhardt. She was also the lead author of this recent NYU study on book deserts. Over the last decade, there has been a significant spike in residential segregation in many U.S. cities.
This recent study by NYU, researchers focused on the impact income segregation had on the availability of children’s books in economically distressed neighborhoods across America. The researchers walked on foot in these different neighborhoods counting the amount of printed books and magazines for sale.
The researchers counted 82,389 print resources in 75 stores. In 50 percent of the neighborhoods that were canvassed, they found that there were no bookstores.
“Without resources, school readiness skills accumulated throughout the year are likely to drop precipitously during the summer,” Neuman also wrote.
“This ‘summer slide’ is a serious issue for children in poor and borderline communities, and having limited access to books may have serious consequences,” she continued.
JetBlue funded NYC’s research study on book deserts. JetBlue has also contributed almost $2 million dollars in children’s books in many urban U.S. cities through an initiative called “Soar with Reading”.