Three books are at the center of my earliest reading memories.
Goodnight Moon was the first book I “read,” having it read to me so many times I had the words memorized. “Goodnight nobody” still makes me laugh.
Richard Scarry’s Cars and Trucks and Things That Go was truly an interactive book, looking for Goldbug on every page. If I remember correctly, I’d lean over to point out Goldbug’s location with my finger while still sucking on my thumb. Multitasking at its finest.
The last book I remember is the Sesame Street Book of Opposites, with Zero Mostel. I loved his expressiveness, his ability to communicate with his whole body, and his top hat.
When the dark marks on the page started making sense, reading before bed became a habit I’ve held on to for the past four decades. No matter how tired I am, I will always read at least a few minutes before turning out the light and chasing dreams.
In this word-crazy world, literacy is imperative.
Reading is one of the best brain exercises possible, not only because it stretches imaginations, but because it also introduces new vocabulary words, friends, and cultures around the world. Reading fiction, specifically, strengthens empathy skills, making the reader better at understanding others and seeing things from alternative perspectives. Reading reduces stress, increases concentration skills, and encourages bold dreams. (Reading even improves sleep!)
While the global literacy rate is near 85%, there are some alarming statistics about illiteracy in the United States.
* 1 in 4 children in the US grow up without learning to read.
* Students who don’t read proficiently by the 3rd grade are 4 times more likely to drop out of school.
* More than 30 million adults in the US can’t read.
Located in the basement of the Midtown Carnegie Library, Ozarks Literacy Council offers free literacy tutoring to anyone in need. I was working for OLC, writing grants and raising funds, when I was inspired to write This is My Springfield, a book of poetry celebrating life in Springfield. All proceeds from that book benefit OLC. In order to keep their services free — services which include tutoring, thousands of annual book donations, and preschool readings — OLC hosts a couple of fundraisers.
On Thursday, March 19, at the Oasis Convention Center, OLC will play host to the 21st Annual Pizza and Pasta Bowl. Tickets can be purchased in advance at their website. Eat pizza, bid on auction items, and help raise the next generation of readers.
Give the life-changing gift of literacy.
One request, please ignore the Royals tickets on the auction.