Guest column: How a round of golf can change a child’s life

By PATRICIA KRAHNKE, guest columnist

The Brown County Literacy Coalition and Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library have joined up with Salt Creek Golf Retreat for the annual DPIL Charity Golf Retreat on Thursday, July 21.

What does golf have to do with reading, you ask?

The goal of this event is to help every child in our county meet their learning success benchmarks from elementary school through high school by raising money to mail books to our children.

Dolly Parton launched her Imagination Library program in 1995 to ensure that children of every socioeconomic level would have access to books.

Families that register for the program are mailed high quality, age-appropriate books directly to their home. DPIL is currently providing books for 547 children in Brown County.

Since 2009, we have provided over 28,000 books. The children served are between the ages of 0 and 5.

According to the National Education Association, “The more types of reading materials there are in the home, the higher students are in reading proficiency, according to the Educational Testing Service.”

They also note research that reveals “children in families with incomes below the poverty line are less likely to be read to aloud every day than are children in families with incomes at or above poverty.”

The books that the Imagination Library provides to our littlest residents go a long way toward putting books in homes that are unable to purchase their own or get to the library easily.

How does an early reading deficit affect Brown County children?

Each year that a child does not read at age level puts them further behind in their abilities to comprehend what they read and understand how to write. The Educational Testing Services reported that students who do less reading at home struggle with math, as well.

The U.S. Department of Education says, “In the second decade of life, as children move toward adulthood, trillions of extra [brain] connections are eliminated. But this is not a random process. Those connections that have been used repeatedly in the early years have become stronger and tend to remain; those that have not been used often enough are shed.” The window for syntax or grammar in brain development is during the preschool years and may close as early as age 5 or 6.

In addition, reading requires a strong ability to focus. When do children first begin to develop this ability? When they play.

“The ability of children to sustain attention is known as a strong indicator for later success in areas such as language acquisition, problem-solving and other key cognitive development milestones,” said Chen Yu, professor in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences.

“Caregivers who seem distracted or whose eyes wander a lot while their children play appear to negatively impact infants’ burgeoning attention spans during a key stage of development.” (The Journal of Current Biology)

At high school level, the literacy struggle of a student who has not been reading-supported in the home throughout life is crystal clear: Their papers are poorly written; their ability to think through complex concepts is critically weak; they don’t understand and can’t follow instructions; they struggle to understand what they are required to read; they are unable to write their name and assignments legibly; and they can’t focus on tasks at hand.

Students who live in homes where reading is not a valued developmental tool have no help in understanding and completing their homework. If they don’t know how to focus, they aren’t able to concentrate for long periods of time.

If they are homeless, food-insecure or abused and neglected, the deficits become even greater. In short, they are unable to communicate appropriately, and they are unable to understand what is being communicated to them.

By the time these students are in high school, they may experience criticism from frustrated teachers who try valiantly to improve their students’ classroom behavior and study skills, when the truth is that the learning-skills deficit is now so great as to be an almost impossible challenge to improve.

These challenges, in turn, create social deficits and contribute to classroom behaviors that may stigmatize them among their peers, teachers and school administrators.

A child’s inability to communicate and understand can lead to involvement with law enforcement, employment failures throughout life, and behaviors that speak to hopelessness, including drug use, depression and suicide.

At the most fragile, anxious, and confusing time of life — adolescence — their self-identity becomes one of insurmountable failure.

How can you help support the learning success of Brown County’s children? By offering your business as a sponsor for the DPIL Charity Golf Outing, or registering yourself or your team to play in the event.

To register yourself or your team, visit

To become a sponsor, please contact Jenise Bohbrink at or Kady Lane at

Questions? Call the Brown County Literacy Coalition at 812-988-6960.

Patricia Krahnke is president of the Brown County Literacy Coalition board. She can be reached at