USM groups combat illiteracy with book sale


Hunt Mercier

Junior Rebecca Applewhite from Purvis, Mississippi shops for books for her kids at the Council on Community Reading and Literacy fair on Thursday Janurary 11, 2016.

On Feb. 11, the Council on Community Reading and Literacy and the Library Science Student Association hosted a children and young adult book salefrom9a.mto4p.minthe Thad Cochran Center.

The event was a joint project from the organizations in order to raise money for literacy- promoting endeavors.

Faced with dire literacy statistics, many organizations across the nation pursue similar goals. One such organization is the Literacy Project Foundation based in California’s Orange and Los Angeles counties and the Coachella Valley.

TLP, founded in 2009, seeks “to enable at-risk and disadvantaged youth to increase their reading skill levels and to become self-sufficient, productive and contributing members of our society.”

According to their statistics, the U.S. ranks 12th in a study of literacy among 20 “high- income” countries and 50 percent of adults cannot read a book written at an eighth-grade level. Additionally, 45 million American adults are functionally illiterate and read below a fifth grade level, 44 percent do not read a book in a year and six out of 10 households do not buy a single book in a year.

The impact on society is likewise alarming. According to TLP, 85 percent of juvenile offenders have problems reading, and some states base the projection of future required prison beds on how well current elementary students are performing on reading tests.

Catharine Bomhold, associate professor of Children’s Literature in the School of Library and Information Science, hopes to combat such statistics by encouraging a love for books.

“We’ve done parades where we hand out books and things like that,” Bomhold said. “We’re trying to make Hattiesburg a city that reads, and that’s where all the money is going to go.”

Bomhold, who helped organize the book sale, has been teaching in the USM School of Library and Information Science for 13 years. She has gathered many books during that time.

“An embarrassing amount of these came from my home,” she said, gesturing to the tables laden with picture and chapter books. “But the response has been really good. We’ve been very pleased.”

Several passerby expressed their interest in additional sale days and places. Bomhold was eager to meet with their needs.

“I’ve had a couple people ask me to set up in other places, so I’ll move around to where the audience is,” she said.

Bomhold said this was the first time in ten years that they’ve hosted such a sale.

Michael Oden, president of USM’s chapter of the Library and Information Science Student Association, and several assistants, including her young son and some students who had signed up through the online nonprofit giving platform, “GiveGab,” joined Bomhold throughout the day.