President Obama announced Thursday that a new initiative will provide more than $250M in free e-books to low-income students, according to the Associated Press. But the real question is what are they going to read those e-books on?
“We’re going to provide millions of e-books online so that they’re available for young people who maybe don’t have as many books at home or don’t always have access to a full stock of reading materials,” Obama said during a virtual town hall.
He told the students that how well they do in life will depend on their reading and learning.
But while the offer may be a lovely gesture, we can’t help but ask – how are they going to read these books if they don’t have access to technology like laptops and tablets at home? And, with all due respect, how did the White House not think of that?
Statistically, low-income households lag far behind their wealthier counterparts in terms of computer ownership. In fact, only about 16% of families with incomes less than $30,000 have a computer at home. In response to these statistics, the White House said libraries and schools in those poorer communities are increasing access to the Internet.
That’s all well and good, but unless they have an entire class period dedicated to reading, it doesn’t seem like there will be much time during the regular school day to read for leisure.
In addition, the White House has pushed different cities to give students free library cards. But weren’t library cards already free?
Ok, Mr. President, we’re going to call your bluff on this.
While we are all for reading, this seems like a very expensive, but still inadequate, solution to a much bigger problem. What about spending $250 million to give computers to those families that need them or to provide better after-school activities for our youth? Or to hire the best teachers to get reading scores up? Or to sponsor academic clubs and trips? We could go on forever.
Let’s hope this is one step in a journey to improve the conditions for low-income children. And that the next step will be a more useful one.
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