I’m definitely among the lucky. Books have played a significant role in my life.

A Clockwork Orange

1984

Catcher in the Rye

The Stranger

These are just a few early favorites that meant something to me.

I’ll never think of the song Singing in the Rain the same way after the attack scene that takes place in Clockwork. I still love and admire the free spirit that is Holden Caulfield to this day. When I think of existentialism, I think of the opening line of The Stranger. 

These are memorable, beautifully-written moments that have lasted with me into adulthood. There’s too many countless others to pick a favorite. Books like Bob Bly’s The Copywriter’s Handbook, or David Garfinkel’s Advertising Headlines that Make You Rich have guided my professional transitions.

I consider myself among the privileged. If books have played a profound role in your life, then you should, too. It’s not that way for everyone.

The Link Between Illiteracy and Incarceration

Let me run through some startling numbers. One in four children in the U.S grow up without knowing how to read.

Pair that with the fact that 66 percent of students who cannot read proficiently by the end of fourth grade go to jail, and it becomes clear that we have a real problem in this country.

We are the only country in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) where the current generation is less educated than the previous one. To put it directly, an inability to read creates a lack of opportunity later in life and it increases the likelihood for incarceration.

Taking Action

Incarceration is expensive. It can cost nearly $50,000 per year to house a juvenile inmate. If you want to decrease a major government expense, and invest in the future of the U.S, encourage literacy. If you are lucky and privileged enough to value books in your own life, consider providing a few for someone who needs them.

I am partnering with my client Jason McSweeney at Joint Media Marketing to collect books for the Illinois Youth Center in Saint Charles, Illinois until April 5. If you have a few titles you particularly enjoyed, please consider mailing them to the P.O Box listed on the above graphic. The rest of the details are there as well. It may be just a drop in a rather large bucket, but let’s help an inmate celebrate National Reading Month.

Matt Brennan is a Chicago-area marketing copywriter and copy editor. He is also the author of Write Right-Sell Now. 

 

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