Here’s a suggestion for a New Year resolution that will have a positive impact on your family: make it your mission in 2017 to inspire the love of reading in the young learners of your family, says David Bruce Smith, co-founder of the Grateful American Book Prize.

Smith points to “studies exposing the sadly disturbing fact that as many as 66% of American teenagers are ‘below proficient’ in reading, which is perhaps the most fundamental element of a child’s educational experience.”

Smith is on a crusade to encourage authors and publishers to produce more works of fiction and non-fiction that can capture the interests of young readers.  His purpose in creating the Prize was to galvanize young learners into reading books-- preferably about American history—and to transform the ritual into an experience, he says.

One English teacher in Minnesota was so despondent over her students’ inability to read, that she wrote a letter to the editor of her local paper. She put it this way: “We are in the midst of one of the greatest literacy crises ever encountered, and we are fighting an uphill battle.  Every day I experience first hand what it means to be illiterate in a high school classroom.  At best it means sleeping away a unit; at worst it means depression or aggression.  Average students with average abilities can fervently text away [on their mobile phones], but they cannot read.”

Parents and grandparents can and should take action if they want the children in their lives to succeed.  It’s particularly important in the digital age in which we live, according to Smith.

“iPhones, tablets and other electronic devices might be great technological developments, but they can’t replace the human experience of turning the pages of a book.  And, when combined with the impact a father or mother can have by reading with their children, it can encourage a life-long desire to learn.”

Kim Dallas, the English teacher who wrote to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, concluded her letter with a plaintive plea to parents of school age children: “What can you do?  Model reading in the home.  Visit the library.  Go to the bookstore.  Share your reading experiences with them.  Encourage them to read their assigned work.  Offer your help with comprehension.  If you struggle with reading, please share how you faced this difficult challenge—and succeeded. They need your help.  I need your help.  To succeed in school, students must read on their own.  Our future depends on it,” she said.