“What are you hoping to achieve here?” was the question a father asked me on Saturday. They were visiting the Reading Place and his two children had found a quiet spot to settle in, among the business, and were paging through some books. I smiled ” That is a great question. One of the goals is to provide a space for kids to do just what yours are doing and encourage you to figure out how you can make reading an everyday part of their lives at home, in the car, on vacation, wherever they are.”
Ryan (not his real name) thought for a few moments and said: ” why is that important to you”. I started to offer him the Calgary Read’s mission statement and data about the issue but realized he was asking the person in front of him; the grandfather who had met him at the door. ” Well, reading has always been an important part of my life. From my grandmother’s lap where I started to decipher the squiggles on the page to the writing, I did this morning, words, ideas and communication have been life changing.”
” I read a lot and read a lot to my kids but does it make a difference?”
” Another good question,” I said and I almost started telling him what I know about language acquisition and the importance of literacy in future success, but instead I said ” When I was eight or nine years old, I got to sail down the Mississippi River, on a raft, (and learned the memory trick for spelling Mississippi) with Tom and Huck because the librarian on the book mobile suggested that I would like Mark Twain.”
” And that change your life?” he smiled again, knowing what my answer would be.
“Yes, that and the copy of Treasure Island, Catch 22, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and text books and teachers, plays, poems, song lyrics, prescriptions, tax forms and travel documents. Once I learned to read, I could read to learn. There was a time when I didn’t read anything that wasn’t related to the work I was doing. I now feel like I missed out on some adventures and so I read some facts and I read some fun every day.”
I don’t think my answers convinced Ryan of anything that he didn’t already believe or suspect but I was encouraged when he asked the kids, who were now standing between us listening to the conversation ” Where can we set up a place, at home, for us to read? We could move the big chair from the family room to the upstairs landing, would that be okay?”
I didn’t hear their answer because I felt a tug on my leg and heard a small voice say ” Do you have any Gerald and the pig books?” I remembered seeing “Happy Pig Day” by Mo Willems on the shelf earlier in the week and went off with her to see if we could find it. We found the copy but it turned out that she had this selection at home and was hoping for another book. By the time, she told me about the book and why she liked it and I got back to Ryan, the three of them were tucked into a cubby in the Shel Silverstein room.
I got busy with another family and didn’t see them leave but I am sure that they have found a comfy spot with some great light and are enjoying some great books together – maybe “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”.
“The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.”
~ Mark Twain