This Utah State Bar program works to provide new books to under-served Utah children on the topics of law, government, American history, and civics. Books From Barristers’ goal is to encourage children to read by emphasizing the importance and value of books, guided by these three core concepts:

The book will be new;

The book will be given to the child; and

The child will choose the book from a selection of titles.

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Message from the Books from Barristers Chair, Elaina Maragakis:





Books From Barristers by Elaina M. Maragakis

It’s impossible to imagine my world without books. Not only am I surrounded by them in my office, but they are packed into walls of bookshelves at home. These days, our home is filled with children’s books, as well. I have crammed them into bookshelves, baskets, and bins. I have surrounded myself – and I suspect that you have, as well – in what researchers call a “print rich environment.” It’s little wonder that some of my earliest and fondest memories are of peeling open the pages of The Berenstain Bears or Dr. Seuss or Little Golden Books, and diving into those wonderful and classic stories.

Sadly, many children never have this experience, even though educational research is replete with evidence that reading has a powerful and direct impact on a child’s success. It is such an obvious way to connect children with lifelong skills, that we often overlook it in its simplicity. The harsh reality is that many children have no access to books of their own. In fact, one study found that in low income neighborhoods, the ratio of books to children is an astonishing one book to every 300 children.1 This unimaginable statistic is alarming and troubling, but fortunately, we have the ability to change this course one child at a time. In his book The Read-Aloud Handbook, author Jim Trelease explores and explains the critical nature of reading and the abundant benefits that flow from reading aloud to children. His research is a powerful testament to the transformative power of books. He writes “we have to find a way to get books into the lives of poor urban and rural children.”2

With this simple goal in mind, it’s my pleasure to introduce a new program of the Utah State Bar called “Books from Barristers.” The goal of Books from Barristers is to provide children in underserved communities with new books on the topics of law, government, American history, and civics. Our hope is that if children can own their own book, they will come to understand the value of reading, which will, in turn, help to solidify a lifelong love of learning. While we hope to eventually expand the program, in its inaugural year we are targeting our efforts to first grade children located in Salt Lake, Davis, and Utah Counties.

Statistics underscore the importance of a program like Books from Barristers. A U.S. Department of Education study showed a direct correlation between the number of books at home and average test scores. This study showed that students with more than 100 books in their homes had higher test scores in science, civics, and history than those who reported having fewer books. Not surprisingly, test scores declined steadily as the number of books in the home declined.3 Beyond success in school, frequent readers also fare better in society than their counterparts who read less. For example, proficient readers are significantly more likely to be employed than below-basic readers.4 Notably, the benefits go far beyond the individual, and have a concrete impact on society as a whole. In its groundbreaking 2007 report titled “To Read or Not to Read,” the National Endowment for the Arts reported that adults who read well are more likely to volunteer, vote, attend cultural and civic activities, and exercise.5

Armed with this educational research, Books from Barristers seeks to provide books to underserved children with three principles in mind:

value (the book must be new);

ownership (the book must be given to the child); and

investment (the child must choose the book).

The first two concepts are based on the proposition explained by author Jim Trelease, namely, that “[o]wnership of a book is important, with the child’s name inscribed inside, a book that doesn’t have to be returned to the library or even shared with siblings.”6 Ownership of a new book conveys a sense of value, and toward that end, each book donated through the Books from Barristers program will not only be given to a child, but will also have a bookplate with a place for the child to write his or her name. The third principle, that the child will have the opportunity to choose from a selection of books, will cause the child to feel invested in the book because he or she has had a hand in selecting it. This year, we have tentatively selected five books for the program. They are:

Woodrow the White House Mouse, by Peter Barnes and Cheryl Barnes

House Mouse, Senate Mouse, by Peter Barnes and Cheryl Barnes

D is for Democracy, by Elissa Grodin

If I Ran for President, by Catherine Stier

If I Were President, by Catherine Stier

Each of these books not only contains important educational lessons, but also rich text and vibrant illustrations, which helps increase the appeal of these wonderful books. And because the benefits of books are increased when people read aloud to children, Books from Barristers will also be distributing with each book a brochure for parents and other family members that discusses how to read aloud to children in a way that maximizes its effectiveness.

Books from Barristers differs from a traditional “book drive” because it encompasses books on topics that are traditionally of interest to lawyers. From explaining the legislative process to describing the presidential election, these books provide a basic foundation for children to learn about our system of government that we, as lawyers, interact with every day.

Moreover, because of generous in-kind donations and monetary support from the Bar, our goal is to have 100% of the proceeds donated by law firms, lawyers, and other businesses go directly to the cost of purchasing books. This means that your donation will directly benefit a Utah child. One of the most attractive aspects of this program is the fact that a modest donation can go a long way. For example, a donation of $1000 will buy approximately 178 books. That means that 178 Utah school children will benefit from your generous contribution.

But our goals can only be met through the generous contributions of lawyers and others in the legal community. I invite all of you to join us in making an important contribution to children in our community!

For further resources, visit the following websites: www.trelease-on-reading.com and www.read.gov.

  1. See Handbook of Early Literacy Research, Volume 2 at 31 (David K. Dickinson & Susan B. Neuman eds., 2006).
  2. Jim Trelease, The Read-Aloud Handbook 122 (6th ed. 2006).
  3. See National Endowment for the Arts, To Read or Not To Read: A Question of National Consequence, Research Report #47, 2007, available at www.arts.gov.
  4. See id. at 20.
  5. See id at 18-19.
  6. Trelease, supra at 35.