Have you ever met anyone in the United States who is unable to read the back of a cereal box or sign his or her name on a credit card receipt? The very idea that illiteracy exists in the United States seems preposterous. How could that still be a problem in a wealthy country that provides public education to all citizens? Yet it does.
Recording artist Faith Hill is using both her talent and her prominent place in the media to help others. Hill is attracted to issues with which she and her family have personal experience.
Her father's inability to read inspired her to start The Faith Hill Literacy Project in 1996. Hill's father was illiterate because he had to quit school in order to help support his 15-member family. On Country Music Television, Hill shared her dream that "one day every person will be able to read."
Hill's goal for her project is three-fold: to increase awareness about the problem of illiteracy; to support literacy groups by providing funding; and to get more people involved in local literacy programs like book drives.
Quoted by the Weekly Reading Corporation, Hill said, "I hope that I can give an adult the inspiration to teach a child to read or [give] a child the resources he or she needs. If I can be the catalyst for one child… then I've accomplished my mission."
Literacy in the United States is a complicated issue. Few Americans are completely illiterate, but the level of reading comprehension among adults is not the same across the board. Those with lower reading levels are usually immigrants and high-school dropouts whose limited education explains why they are able to understand a few words but unable to read a simple bedtime story. Education for these people is often out of reach because they are working overtime at low-paying jobs just to make ends meet.
Parents are instrumental in both helping and hindering their child's ability to read. The more children are read to, the higher their reading level will be. Children also learn by example, so they are more likely to read if they see their parents reading. But if parents are unable to read to their kids because of lack of education, these children are more likely to fall behind.
At one concert Hill performed at the Dixon May Fair in Dixon, Calif., she got people involved in her literacy campaign by asking the audience to bring a children's books to the concert. Each person who donated a book received a ticket to a drawing for a personal meeting with Hill. During her "This Kiss Tour," she requested that fans donate children's books at concerts. As a result, she collected more than 35,000 books that she then distributed to schools, libraries and hospitals.
Hill is also using her voice to support other charitable causes in addition to illiteracy in the United States.
The long list of concerts Hill has performed for other charities includes the "Live 8" concert in July 2005 that raised awareness about poverty in Africa and the developing world.
Hill has also done a Breast Cancer Benefit show in remembrance of her mother, Linda McCartney, who died of breast cancer.
In October 2003, Hill played at the "Grand Slam For Children" event organized by tennis star Andre Agassi. The proceeds from the event went to help at-risk youth in Las Vegas.
Another issue that is close to Hill's heart is adoption. She participated in a July 2003 Nickelodeon special called "My Family is Different," aimed at educating kids about adoption. The special explained to kids that adoption happens as a result of international and domestic issues and that adoption is an essential part of the foster care system. Hill shared her own story of being adopted at the age of 1. By sharing personal experiences with the kids, Hill and Nickelodeon hoped to encourage kids to be more sympathetic towards their peers who are adopted.
On Sept. 9, 2005, Hill performed in "Shelter from the Storm: A Concert for the Gulf Coast" to help raise funds and boost morale for the victims and volunteers dealing with the devastation in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama caused by Hurricane Katrina. All proceeds from this event went to the American Red Cross. Hill also bought enough supplies to fill three trucks and took them to the American Red Cross headquarters in Mississippi.
Like Faith Hill, you too can make a difference. If literacy is an important issue for you, a good way to help is to get involved with your community. Local libraries have adult and child literacy programs that need both funding and volunteers.
When you find a cause that is meaningful and an organization whose goals are similar to your own, donate your time, talents or money to help.
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