The Book Deserts of Underserved Communities
by William Jackson and Aida Correa
@wmjackson and @latinapheonix
There are deserts that span vast distances around the world.
They lack the resources to support the diversity of life seen in
places that have sufficient environmental conditions that allow
for growth of foliage allowing animals to live, survive and thrive.
The definition of a desert by Wikipedia is:
“A desert is a barren area of landscape where little precipitation
occurs and consequently living conditions are hostile for plant
and animal life.” The application of this definition in many ways
can be applied to under-served communities across this nation
that suffer from lack of educational
materials promoting reading.
Even though there are books in schools, libraries, and community
centers conditions may not be motivating for children in
Looking at the Twitter tags #BookDeserts #BookDesert
#ReadingDeserts there is a serious discussion promoting literacy
in communities. When there are children that love to read it can
be challenging to find materials that excite them and their passion
to learn about the areas they love.
Stated by Derrick Young (Mahogany Books in Washington, D.C.)
about book deserts, “A book desert isn’t a community-created
Derek Young states, “It’s because other people have decided not
to invest into these communities. It’s not because these
communities aren’t readers.”
As an educator and two children attending universities I
understand that education is an investment that has long-term
applications, people living in distressed areas are on survival
mode and not seeing long-term events because they are surviving
from day to day. Aida, a mother and grandmother, understands
the value and importance of reading. She taught her children
that reading is a foundation for educational success.
As an inner-city Title 1 teacher over 20 years, I have seen students
attention directed to just living, not worrying about where the
next book will be coming from.
So books may not be available to inspire reading. Studies in 2015
and 2016 have shown that book deserts exist when there is a rise
in income segregation, lack of infrastructure investment or
financial stability is affected by job loss, incarceration and even
when a school receives a failing grade on state assessments
and funds are cut.
Negatively impacting a family’s and community’s capability to
provide reading material. The focus changes and diminishes the
chances of academic success. The impact on adults is big as well,
children do not see their parents reading the newspaper or
books so they do not have role models or engagement to talk
about the news and current events.
Even neighborhood libraries face challenges because their
materials may be old, outdated and not culturally relevant.
If a child does not see themselves in a book they may not
want to read it if there is no previous exposure.
Jacksonville Public Libraries often work within communities
to provide resources and materials that broaden the vision
of children and create a welcoming environment for Black,
Latina, White, Asian, etc. There are still some parents that do
not access the resources because of their lack
of reading skills or past experiences.
In Jacksonville, Florida there are bookstores “Chamblin”
that have books bursting out of the walls to be purchased
and can even be returned in exchange at a lower cost for
other books. Teachers can even have accounts set up for
their classrooms so students can purchase books and the
teacher can pay for all or part of the book.
In this digital age where information sharing, collaboration
and knowledge based application is important. Reading
is an essential skill that transcends generations, genders,
lifestyles and cultures. Communities of color
sometimes lack the educational investments necessary to
inspire children, youth, teens and young adults to read,
but parents do guide their children to educational success
and movement, parents are the first role models by
Too often the societal perception and even the media has
the idea that people in challenged or poor neighborhoods
don’t care about the achievement of their children. This is
further from the truth, parents in under-served
neighborhoods want the best for their children, because
of circumstances in finances, educational lacking, and other
social issues do not have the means to provide proper and
Bookstores like “Chamblin” and Jacksonville Public Libraries
fill the gap in book deserts so long as there is proper investment
and a vision for growth and success to meet the needs of
Parents make 2018 the year for engagement with your
children to get them to enjoy reading. Make it a part of your
and their lives every day…
Over 200 Books for and about People of Color and Culture
Video created by William Jackson #MyQuestToTeach
Twitter: #bookdeserts #bookdesert
Chamblin Book Store – http://chamblinbookmine.com/default.aspx
Facebook for Chamblin Book Store
Jacksonville Public Library Twitter – https://twitter.com/jaxlibray
Jacksonville Public Library Online – http://www.jacksonvillelibrary.com
Friends of the Jacksonville Public Library – http://fjpl.info
San Marco Bookstore
@SanMarcoBooks – Twitter