What do literacy and Star Wars have in common? A lot, apparently.
EUCantina.net devotes itself to the expanded universe (EU) of Star Wars. This summer, EUCantina.net decided to focus on the issue of illiteracy in the United States, because as the site's current tagline says, "44 million adults in the U.S. can't read well enough to read a simple story to a child."
EUCantina teamed with Reading is Fundamental (RIF), a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving literacy in children across the U.S, to try to generate in children a deeper appreciation, and hopefully a love, of the page and words. Austin Blankenship, one of EUCantina's administrators, described the impetus for this collaboration.
"When I found RIF, I started looking closely at the startling statistics on children's literacy. I realized that this was an area that desperately needed our help," said Blankenship. "Children's literacy is a major issue, but I think that it is being overlooked as a real problem. Most people would agree that kids need to be able to read, but they probably don't realize the true impact that literate children will have on a society. I also worry that in general the public doesn't truly understand the poor position that children's literacy is currently in."
And a poor situation it really is. According to RIF, two-thirds of impoverished U.S. children do not have books at home, and nearly 40 percent of U.S. 4th graders cannot read at the most basic proficiency level (RIF.org). Blankenship realized EUCantina had a wonderful opportunity to aid in RIF's endeavor because of it was an area that his website could relate to because it reviews Star Wars books and comics.
"A big first step to helping these kids is to get them interested in reading. That's where Star Wars comes in," explained Blankenship. "So many young girls and boys are fascinated by Star Wars. If we can provide them with an easy-to-read Star Wars book, that will instantly grab their attention."
Blankenship said the literacy endeavor has been going well, and he hoped that the program will continue to benefit children throughout their lives. "They'll start with Star Wars, and realize that reading is something that can be fun and interesting. It's a great way to make that first step have a lasting impression."
It's not too late to join the Rebels in the fight against illiteracy of Death Star proportions. Through September 12, you can donate directly to RIF through EUCantina's main page, or you can choose to purchase a wicked Yoda-themed "A Force for Childhood Literacy" tshirt! The shirts cost about $16 each; $4 from each purchase goes directly to RIF and the rest covers the cost of the shirt (EUCantina makes no profit on them).
Of course, you can also make a difference by grabbing one of your old Star Wars books and donating it to a young relative or your local shelter, thus perpetuating the love for Star Wars and reading for generations to come.
All photos courtesy of EUCantina.net.