Saturday, November 10, 2007

100 Men Reading

Do you remember the ad campaign of a couple of decades ago--send me a person who reads. . .? The gist of the ad was that a person who reads is likely to be well-informed, curious, engaged--in short, the kind of person you would want to hire.

Perhaps it comes as no surprise that I prize--no, treasure--reading. I think there are few activities you can do that are more rewarding than reading. And, no doubt, it will surprise no one that I urged our children to read.

From the time our son and our daughter were just wee babes, we read to them. And, as adults, they both love to read.

I have two wonderful stories about how they reacted to my reading stories to them. One morning, I was reading the wonderful novel Julie of the Wolves to our son. Without giving anything away about the plot of this book, I came to a part where the alpha wolf in the pack is shot and killed. Seeing this detail ahead, I began to sob. My son, totally absorbed in the plot, said--Keep reading, Mommy, keep reading.

A decade later, when our daughter was little, I was reading the story Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes to her. Based on a true story about a young girl who lived in Hiroshima when it was bombed, the book reaches its climax as Sadako is dying. The Japanese custom is to buy a kimono for a young girl entering puberty. Since Sadako is dying, her parents spend a significant sum of money to get her kimono before she dies. This detail also left me teary--and my daughter glanced over at me and said--you're going to cry now, aren't you?

Books do have the power to move us.

I am very proud of my husband, who took part this week in a reading day in one of our local schools. Under the sponsorship of the American Literacy Corporation, 100 men in the Harrisburg area were recruited to go into the grade schools and middle schools and read to students.

My husband selected the book called The Three Questions, based on a story by Leo Tolstoy, written and illustrated by Jon Muth. This sweet book features a boy named Nikolai who asks three questions: 1) when is the best time to do things; 2) who is the most important one; and 3) what is the right thing to do?

He encounters his friends--Sonya, a heron; Gogol, a monkey; and Puskin, a dog. He asks them the questions, and puzzles over answers. Eventually they encounter a wise old turtle named Leo who guides Nikolai to the answers. (As an aside, I note the humor in the names in this story: Sonya was one of Tolstoy's daughters, Gogol and Pushkin are prominent Russian writers, and of course Leo is Tolstoy himself!)

As he was reading, my husband noticed the children becoming very engaged with the story. They began to pepper him with questions--for example, why do the animals talk? where are the boy's parents? doesn't he have other friends? why does he have animals for friends?
A book with the power to move children!

It was a small thing for my husband to do--take a couple of hours out of his work day morning. But, the long time impact is immeasurable. Children who are exposed to books have a whole world laid open before them. 100 men reading? Yes, and perhaps 1,000 children who may have one more reason to get turned on to books.


Mary C said...

That was a really good project, Donna. I like the idea of getting men to read to children - it isn't done often enough. Usually, that is something moms/women would end up doing (if anyone would choose to read to children). I remember reading to my children while they were little tykes, especially while they were still toddlers. And it paid off; they both love to read. My daughter (the older one) learned to read when she was four, and my son learned to read when he was five. And I attribute that to reading to them early.

Ruth said...

What an excellent post! Reading is so important and rewarding. I was reading a Facebook profile and under favourite books was written, "comics, tv guide, car manual". This was from my nephew who has a young son. We need male role models like your husband.
Yes, I cry easily too when reading (add movies, plays, songs too) and the reaction of my children is the same as yours.

Elaine Cougler Author said...

What a wonderful program--workers coming into the schools and reading to children. And I especially like that your husband did it as so many little ones just don't have that particular role model.

Mary said...

I'll try to be brief. I read to Gina before she learned to read and we kept up the pace for years following. We both laughed and cried at stories we read together. She always enjoyed taking her favorite books to school and reading to the class. In first grade, she read, "I'll Always Love You", a story about a boy's dog who died of old age, and she will always remember a boy in her class, Billy Hora (horrible Billy Hora) who cried.

She lost interest in reading by the time she was in middle school. I think she would rather "do" things than to read about them? Reading became a chore in high school and college.

But, this past Friday, she participated in Reading First at a local elementary school and took time off from work to read to a class of Kindergartners. She and the children loved it.

So, maybe my efforts weren't forgotten.

I'm proud of your husband, too.

Beverly said...

Wonderful idea! Especially to have men do it.

KGMom said...

To all--you picked up on the main idea of 100 Men Reading--to have men read to children.
It is wonderful that women have taken the lead, but children benefit from men reading to them also.
And based on your comments, it sounds like there are many of us who are dedicated to this special way of boosting children.

Endment said...

Kudos - fantastic post
I am sharing this with the men in my family - just wish they could find places where they could volunteer.

Anvilcloud said...

I still often read to Cuppa at night. She's just an old kid. Taught "Julie of the Wolves" to a grade ten, general class once -- or tried my best anyway.

RuthieJ said...

What a neat post, Donna. My mom used to read to us when we were little kids also, and my siblings and I all still love to read ALOT!

In parochial school, we had a teacher who used to read bible stories aloud to us while we worked quietly at our desks.

I think there's really something wonderful about reading and being read to. It's nice to know that you and your husband are continuing to promote reading at home and in the community.

Cathy said...

I love the pictures of your family - those sweet children lost in their books. It brings back wonderful memories and a sadness that there's no child close-by with whom to snuggle and read a bedtime story.