The Washington Post published a story on Monday about the state of Maryland's new literacy campaign, and I think it's a perfect example of a project that would only be improved if it went digital.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Monday announced a new effort to provide monthly age-appropriate book mailings for Baltimore children younger than six.
Tennessee is the only other state to partner with the Imagination Library initiative, a child literacy program that was started by country singer Dolly Parton.
Seven counties in Maryland have their own partnerships, as did the city of Baltimore. But Baltimore’s was reaching only a handful of children, and the Hogan administration decided to launch a state-run effort to involve more families from the city.
“I want children in Maryland to be excited about books and reading — and every single child should have access to books, regardless of their family’s circumstances,” Hogan (R) said in an announcement.
You can read more about the program in the state's announcement. This project will help as many as 41 thousand kids in Baltimore, and cost around $25 per child.
While it has laudable goals, I think the methods and scope are too limited. Send the books to the kids, yes, but I think the state should set aside a tithe of that money and create a website where the kids can download ebooks (and the apps to read them on).
You can think of it as a variation on the textbook archives that some states and universities have launched over the past five years, only with less of a focus on academics and more on literacy. It would be stocked with a mix of public domain titles, publisher donations, and CC-licensed books, and also feature instructions on how to download the ebooks and load them into an app or ereader. And best of all, once this website is launched it can help far more than just 41,000 children in Baltimore; everyone could use it.
Admittedly, my idea is not perfect; getting ebook tech to work in the classroom is still a trial and error process, and the kids who could benefit the most are also the least likely to have a device they can read on.
But don't you think this is a better use of the state's funds?
Or better yet, do you know of a site which already fills this purpose, one which the state of Maryland could support with funding and publicity?
image by US D. of Ed