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!


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