Wednesday, November 24, 2010

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie...If You Give a Child a Story...

As we enter the season of Christianity's favorite story, it's no wonder that - like so many things this time of year - storytelling enters an otherworldly realm of magic. In my household, a much-worn copy of The Night Before Christmas was lifted by my father's hands out of the Christmas box every Christmas eve after church, as he settled his reading glasses on his nose, and my sister and I snuggled into the warmth of his arms, drinking in his patient words and breathing in the cinnamon scented pages (somehow, in another type of Christmas magic, everything that came up out of the cardboard boxes full of decorations, advent candles and calendars, books and Wise Men, hiding in the depths of the basement all year, smelt of cinnamon, and other holiday smells, without fail, every year).

Would you be surprised that at 24 and 20, we still clamber for a reading of that tale (or at least, I do) on Christmas Eve each year? And my father - as he ages gently into a white beard, still with the glasses upon his nose (he was recently invited to join the Amalgamated Order of Real Bearded Santa Clauses, and yes, Virginia, there is such a thing) - is no less patient, perhaps even more so, as a father must be with wistful adult daughters who still wish to hear nursery tales.

Be no less surprised that when gathering around our Advent Wreath each Sunday in December, the two of us fought and bickered predictably over who would get to read the words in the Christmas story that day.

In my adult years, I've begun the tradition of each year at Christmastime reading Charles Dickens' famed, A Christmas Carol, lest I forget it's lessons.

N and I (already!) read Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas every day before nap - and she sounds in resoundingly ("Giddap!") at the parts she's already memorized in the past week or so - and her father reads it to her every night before bedtime.

But what if you were a child whose household never read you a story, not at Christmas, not ever? And what if you couldn't even find a book at your school?

As a recent tutor-in-training with Literacy KC, a local non-profit dedicated to improving the literacy skills of area adults through one-on-one tutoring, I've spent the last several weeks learning all the gory details of the state of literacy in this, our first-world country. And as a nanny, I see a fair amount of Nick Jr, whose campaign and partnership with First Book has enlightened me with some scary statistics. While Literacy KC is working towards helping adults with, for what is for many students a lifetime struggle with reading, First Book is focused on children's access to books, another key to solving the literacy issue.

A few facts:

"A recent study shows that while in middle income neighborhoods the ratio of books per child is 13 to 1, in low-income neighborhoods, the ratio is 1 age-appropriate book for every 300 children."

"80% of preschools and after-school programs serving low-income populations have no age-appropriate books for their children."

My own journey with Literacy KC has been an emotional one; during training, I've heard testimonies from students who had sudden realizations that, when reading to their preschooler, they would never be able to read a book to their child again, to students who wanted to work, but couldn't fill out a job application. It's something I took for granted all of my life: parents who loved to read to me, and love to read themselves, access to all the books my book-crazy heart could desire, a quality education, and even a natural ability to read and write. So many of the students at Literacy KC struggle with poor phonemic awareness and learning disabilities, and because of their socioeconomic circumstances, were passed through as "stupid," by teachers, schools, and parents who didn't care, or grew up in households where nobody they knew could read either. Some of these people graduate their high schools reading at an 8th grade level, or far worse. And they will tell you themselves just how far you can't get at a 5th grade reading level, diploma, or not.

And this is just America.

Nick Jr has teamed up with First Book and We Give Books as part of their Big Help initiative- a "commitment to engage kids to take action and make a difference by connecting them to issues and current events they are passionate about. The campaign focuses on four key concerns that affect the current generation of kids: the sustainability of the environment, the need to improve on health and wellness, the right to a quality education and becoming more active in their community." They've put together on-line book drive campaigns in order to provide books to children of the low-income neighborhoods, families, and schools.

Not only that, but they encourage you to encourage your own little reader (should you know one); We Give Books' campaign functions on the premise that you select a book from their digital library to read online, and they donate a book.

And then there's Anthropologie, who's teamed up with Penguin Books to create holiday story time sessions in their stores that coincide with local book drives. Your child can listen to a story while you shop this holiday season (which makes a happier shopping experience for everyone), and when you check out, you can pick a book or toy from their selection to donate.

Check out their Facebook page for more info; in Kansas City, our drive takes place at the Country Club Plaza store, on December 15, from 10-12 am (this time slot seems as though it might be wrong - I'm going to investigate, and changes will be posted if need be).

Also, locally, Churchill - located in the Fairway shops - will be donating a percentage of their November and December sales to Literacy KC.

I promise this isn't just me up on my soapbox; 'tis always the season to give and be thankful, but here's to helping children everywhere start fresh in the new year with a book to read.

No comments:

Post a Comment