Thursday, August 25, 2011

Serving the Community: Literacy

My granddaughter is turning one year old, and we had to make sure she had a copy of Goodnight Moon to help her fall asleep at night. As we browsed for the Margaret Wise Brown staple with the engaging mouse in Dolly's Bookstore in Park City, Utah I was warmly reminded of visiting that shop as a teenager on vacation, and even more of my mother reading picture books to me as a young child. My father was on a career fast-track in those days with Fairchild National Semiconductor so he was transferred almost yearly, sometimes leaving us with no immediately available housing. As we awaited permanent homes in places like Portland, Maine or Manhattan Beach, California, the company would often put us up in a very nice hotel.

As cooped up young children we drove my mom crazy, but she patiently read to us from our favorites--over, and over, and over. Curious George, Madeline, Ferdinand, The Little House, Mike Mulligan, and others became our constant friends as we anticipated a new neighborhood and the ensuing changes and uncertainty. We eventually progressed to Wind in the Willows and then reading on our own. The voracious reader that my mom is, I'm sure she was relieved when she was finally able to resume making her own literary choices. Young children can read the same book many times and still find magic in the story. Even though she's progressed to chapter books, my stepdaughter Taryn can be heard reciting King Bidgood to her pretend class as she "teaches" them after school.
We discovered even young adults and older children still enjoy revisiting those classics, as we presented Braelyn with her copy of Goodnight Moon to the delight of her parents.

One passionate student at Paly, was caught doing good while enjoying her old favorite at the end of the school year, while other teens were talking about summer plans or signing yearbooks in the library. Virginia caught my eye as she casually read aloud a Dr. Suess book near the librarians' desk. I knew she must have some affiliation with my friend Cathy's group who make videos of books for her literacy initiative in China. She told me she was a part of that, and she didn't mind posing for this photo to help more young people see how easy it is to get involved. Apple Tree Library Foundation's mission statement reads: "To p
romote reading and build English language capacity in China, through public or private US/China collaborations to establish public children's libraries."

When we moved this summer, I had a hard time parting with some of my childrens' classics and boxed up a few for Braelyn. Others will remain on the bookshelf for me to read to visiting young children and future grandchildren. That still leaves a few boxes of sweet stories to share with others, from the richly illustrated classics of Audrey and Don Wood, to the first-grade favorite The Boxcar Children. It will be easy to spread them around because of some highly efficient book donation programs in the Bay Area such as The Children's Book Project, sponsored by KOIT Radio (donate in August and September at Metro PCS) and Books for Charity, with countless donation bins in grocery store parking lots.

My mom inspired a love of reading during those weeks of my childhood in high-end hotels, waiting for our new home to be ready. My little granddaughter reminds me of the joy I later found in reading to my own children, including her mom who is now a passionate lover of literature. Grass roots initiatives and relatively new nonprofit organizations promote literacy by gathering donations and distributing to those who crave more stories. By sharing our abundance of children's books, we can promote literacy in our own community and the communities of our friends. Thanks to Cathy's charity which teaches English to children through books by networking American libraries and initiatives abroad, we can now even do good works in China!


Friday, August 19, 2011

Chocolate Chip Service

Today was about the most disappointing day I can remember, as I went back to work and found my entire office boxed and piled in the hallway of the school. We have run out of room, and with new hires and reorganization of space I am being moved into an already too noisy office with three other people. School starts in a few days, so custodians were scrambling to put us back together. "Time to go slowly," I thought, as nerves began to rattle. I did what I could to get the project moving along, knowing it's simply not enough space for all of our duties, then I forced myself to leave and enjoy one last summer weekend with my family. Thank goodness we already planned to go to the beach tomorrow--the soothing sound of waves will help me sort through challenges for the year ahead.

Sometimes I have resorted to retail therapy, but more often when things have been stressful and I'm on overload I choose one of three remedies: exercising in fresh air, blogging about community service, or baking oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. On the drive home today, watching the traffic back up on Highway 85 I knew this would be a night for all of the above. I arrived home with a sixteen-ounce bag of See's semi-sweet extra-large chips on stand-by, and relaxed reading the newspaper until falling asleep for a few minutes. Then I woke up ready to burn the last hours of daylight on my feel-good quest. I'll run off the calories this evening after chomping on some dough and a few of the silky chocolate chips. Now, the cookies are ready to go, made with fresh butter, whole-wheat pastry flour and lots of t.l.c. My step-daughter Taryn was entertained by making mounds with an ice cream scoop for our Mrs. Field's sized treats, and now we are ready for the service part. Tomorrow half our batch will be delivered to Lisa, the hardest-working single mom we know. We get the joy of baking, and the pleasure of sharing our craft. Nothing does "good work" as well as a plate of homemade chocolate chip cookies for someone else on a Saturday morning, and come Monday maybe my woes at work will seem less significant. I'll be sure to take some cookies along, just in case!

Interested in Service by Cookies and Baking? Try these fun ways to share your passion
  • Host a bake sale for your favorite charity, donate the proceeds. Better yet, host a yard sale combined with a bake sale for charity. You're bound to get lots of traffic for a cause, and you get to donate the cash at the end.
  • Bake cookies or other treats for a family shelter in your community. Our church youth group discovered at the San Jose "Loaves and Fishes" kitchen back in December, "nothing beats homemade!"
  • Bake cookies and/or bread, and take a pot of soup to your local Ronald McDonald House. Call to schedule day and time when your service is most needed.
Bina's Favorite Recipe for Chocolate Chip Service
1 1/2 c. light brown sugar
1 c. fresh butter (salted)
1 t. vanilla
2 large eggs
1 3/4 c. whole wheat pastry flour
2 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
2 1/2 c. regular rolled oats
1 pkg. See's chocolate chips
  1. Mix sugar and butter until just creamy, then mix in vanilla and eggs.
  2. Stir together flour, salt, and soda, then mix into above ingredients.
  3. Stir in oats and chips.
  4. Drop by scooper or tablespoon onto cookie sheet prepared with cooking spray.
  5. Bake cookies for approximately 10 minutes at 350 degrees, until bottoms begin to turn golden brown. Remove immediately from sheet onto paper towels or racks to cool.
  6. Keep in airtight container and share liberally, they are addicting!