Anyone willing to donate more than half a million dollars to fund a literacy program benefiting the poorest population of a county clearly knows the true value of money.

Whether it was one person, a consortium of the civic-minded or a corporation, we should all be grateful for the investment.

The United Way of Wayne County, the Wayne County Library and all of the educators and volunteers who will be stewards of this money are clearly aware of the responsibility they share and also ought to be shown gratitude for their respective efforts.

The money is not simply going to benefit those -- young or old -- who need to strengthen their reading chops. A well-read individual has a better chance of being a well-rounded person. Books open up a world of imagination and offer a gateway to knowledge inaccessible otherwise, not to mention that the ability to read allows a person to function much better in their day-to-day lives than someone who cannot decipher the written word.

Imagine the shame melting away from the child in the classroom who, over time, becomes more able and therefore willing to raise his or her hand to answer a question or who doesn't feel compelled to misbehave rather than be called upon in class to read aloud.

Imagine the man or woman capable of venturing down to city hall or the bank to conduct business confidently, or to apply for that better-paying job and raise his or her family out of poverty. Perhaps he or she can now enroll in school or a work certification program and gain a trade.

We salute those who are making and have been making a difference in people's lives by helping to deliver the gift of reading. It truly is a key to a better life and a more productive existence.

And if you know someone who struggles to read, please, encourage them rather than mock them and be a steward of your own kindness.

The reward of a better educated society is something we can all share in.