Who lacks access to books?

By Janessa Blythe

When I was a kid, my parents placed a bookshelf next to my room and my brother’s room. Every night, we’d pick a book, pick a parent, and spend a little time in another world. I remember always reading Amelia Bedelia with my dad, fairy books with my mom, and Harry Potter with the whole family.

Because that was all I had ever known, I assumed that most children grew up in households that emphasized reading daily.

In the fall of 2015, I ran a small book drive as a part of a course I was taking at Baylor. I knew that children from lower-income households probably had fewer books than their more affluent peers, but did not realize how great that difference was. The books we collected were given to some of the children at Estella Maxey Public Housing Complex here in Waco. When I delivered the books, I heard over and over again from the volunteers, “These kids just don’t have books at home.”

It turns out that the research shows that children from low-income households tend to lack access to books, and have few books in their homes. The US Department of Education found that 61% of low-income families have no books at all in their homes (US Dept. of Education, 1996). One example of this is low-income neighborhood in Philadelphia, where the University of Michigan found that the ratio was 1 book for every 300 children (Neuman and Celano, 2001).

Lack of book access is a huge issue for many of the children in our country, and it affects them every day both in an out of the classroom. According to the Education Equality Index, 60% of students in Texas are eligible for free and reduced lunch. The socioeconomic status of these children indicates that they more than likely lack access to books.

This is a problem because not all learning happens at school; children are only there about 7 hours a day, and they are only in school 9-10 months each year. This becomes an issue for lower-income students, because they lack learning resources at home. A study by the RAND Corporation about the “summer slide” found that “results in reading show that middle-income students maintained achievement levels over the summer while high-income students improved and low-income students lost ground” (RAND, 2011). Low-income students lose ground because they have fewer opportunities to practice their reading, or improve their reading when they are not in school.

There are a number of reasons for the lack of books in low-income households.  There are libraries, but they are often far away and parent’s either don’t take their children, or don’t know that they should take their children regularly. School libraries often don’t allow books to be taken home, and are often unavailable in the summer. Finally, books are expensive and are difficult for low-income parents to afford.

When children from lower-income households go home, they don’t have the resources they would need to continue learning.

Scholastic’s Family and Community Engagement Research Compendium from 2013 puts the argument for book access succinctly:

  • Children from less affluent families do not perform as well on achievement tests compared with children of more affluent families.
  • These gaps related to families’ socioeconomic status are present even before children enter school.
  • Reading to young children is related to stronger subsequent academic achievement.
  • Children in low-income families have access to fewer reading materials than children of middle- and upper-income families.

Their conclusion is that “the only behavior measure that correlates significantly with reading scores is the number of books in the home,” and that “the most successful way to improve the reading achievement of low-income children is to increase their access to print” (Scholastic FACE, 2013).

We spend millions of dollars each year on education in America, but not all learning happens at school. Mortimer J. Adler once said that “the principle cause of the learning that occurs in a student is the activity of the student’s own mind.” When a child picks up a book, and struggles to understand what the letters on the page are communicating, that child activates his or her mind and is learning. This learning is unaided by a teacher, but it is learning all the same.

If a child has no books in their home, in the many hours they spend there, there is no prospect of picking up a book and learning to learn.

Janessa Blythe is a junior at Baylor University originally from Colorado Springs, CO.  She is studying Great Texts, Political Science, and Classics in the University Scholars Program, and anticipates attending law school when she graduates in May of 2018. She hopes to eventually work in education policy. In her free time, Janessa loves to spend her time outside, especially on the trails in Cameron Park.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.








Depression, anxiety, grief, anger, PTSD — Acupuncture Might Help

By Jamie Graham

Twenty-two years ago, I found myself lying on a massage table with fine thin needles being inserted into various parts of my body. The problem that had brought me to this unusual position was a monthly fluctuation in moods called Premenstrual Syndrome, accompanied by severe debilitating cramps. During my monthly cycle, I would swing between tears and irritability. Acupuncture had been recommended to me by a friend whose sister was attending the Academy of Oriental Medicine at Austin (AOMA). My friend assured me her sister, or one of her fellow interns in the student clinic at AOMA, would be able to help both with the pain and the moods.

Being in such misery, I was willing to try anything. During my treatment, which included two interns and an instructor asking questions, taking my pulse and looking at my tongue, I mentioned I often had a feeling of something being stuck in my throat that wouldn’t go down when I swallowed. A look of understanding passed between the two interns and one of them explained this was something Chinese medicine called Plum Pi Qi and it clearly was indicated in my diagnosis of Liver Qi stagnation. After the needles were removed, they also gave me an herbal formula and recommended I return for future treatments.

I was amazed at the results. I felt calmer, more centered and as a bonus, during the next monthly cycle, my cramps were much reduced. I was hooked.

Six years later, I was the intern seeing clients in the student clinic at AOMA. Many of those clients had mental health issues, ranging from depression, anxiety, grief, anger, PTSD and many others.

At AOMA, we learned emotional issues were related to stagnation of an energy called Qi (pronounced chee). Each emotion was also related to a specific organ system. Grief was related to lungs, anger and depression to liver, fear to kidneys, worry to spleen, overjoy (mania) to heart.  By releasing this stagnation with the acupuncture needles and rebalancing the specific organ system, these mental health issues could eventually be resolved.

After graduation, I began to research how acupuncture helps resolve these issues.  Western medicine had begun doing research studies on acupuncture.  While many of these focused on pain, several of them also focused on mental health issues.  There are many theories as to why acupuncture helps pain and other issues such as depression, anxiety and PTSD, one of the things we do know is acupuncture affects brain chemistry.  It causes the body to release endorphins, serotonin, and enkephalins and other brain chemicals that help our body with pain, emotions and our immune system. It also increases receptor sites for these chemicals to attach to within the body.

One of the most interesting continuing education classes I have taken was working with veterans suffering from PTSD through an organization called Vet TRIIP (Veterans Team Recovery Integrative Immersion Process). This organization uses a multi-disciplinary approach to working with veteran PTSD. They incorporate tai chi or qigong, acupuncture, massage therapy, chiropractic, talk therapy and other modalities to help the veterans in their recovery.

The first veteran I treated was one who was, “wound very tight.” He had chronic pain in his lower back and neck. Using just a few acupuncture needles and sitting with him quietly, I watch as the tension left his body. After the needles were removed, he stood up, and a smile came across his face as he realized his pain had eased. “I feel so relaxed,” he said, “and the pain is much less.”

Another veteran I worked with was also a survivor of sexual assault. She was having severe anxiety and insomnia. She also had chronic pain. She, too, was very tense—emotionally and physically. During the treatment, she was actually able to fall asleep, and afterwards told me she felt calmer, like she could finally take a deep breath.

Of course, veterans with PTSD aren’t the only ones to benefit from acupuncture’s effects on mental health issues.

Another training I took is called NADA (National Acupuncture Detoxification Association). This simple 5 needle acupuncture, done entirely in the outer ear, has been used to help people wean off drugs, alcohol and tobacco. One of its main effects is to help reduce stress and anxiety. It was used by acupuncturists to help first responders and victims deal with stress after 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and many other disasters. It’s also used by Acupuncturists Without Borders when they respond to disaster sites around the world.

I use NADA quite often in conjunction with body acupuncture for my clients experiencing stress, depression or anxiety. One of the main points in this treatment is Shen Men, which translates as Spirit Gate. Quite often, if someone is in a stressful situation, I will add a very tiny (.06 mm) needle on a piece of tape to Shen Men, to help them deal with stress after they leave the clinic.

During my 16 years of treating clients with acupuncture, I’m still amazed when someone sits up from the treatment table with a relaxed smile on their face as they tell me how calm and energized they feel. And often, that’s just a side benefit from other issues we’ve been addressing.  It’s one of the reasons I love my work.

Jamie Graham is the owner of Healing Touch Acupuncture and is a licensed acupuncturist practicing in Waco. She has a Master of Science in Oriental Medicine from the Academy of Oriental Medicine at Austin. She and her husband, Bob, will be celebrating 43 years of marriage in March. She has one daughter and one grandson who are the joy of her life. She is owned by a Russian blue cat named Walter and a very spoiled shih tzu named Brandi. When she’s not using needles as an acupuncturist, she uses different kinds of needles in her textile art, quilting, knitting and embroidery work.

You may contact Jamie at Healing Touch Acupuncture: 254-759-8050 |  Healingtouchtexas@gmail.com |  www.healingtouchacupuncture.com | www.Facebook.com/HealingTouchAcupuncture

 The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.