Sep. 27, 2016

Reading Is Dreaming With Open Eyes!

“You are never too old, too wacky too wild,

to pick up a book and read to a child.” Dr. Seuss

“Books wash away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” Anonymous

This is Jessie and this is Jessie explaining something to her mom. This face usually involves a hand on one hip and a very looooong explanation with some backtracking and, ‘Oh, I forgot this part’ and sometimes this will be about a book she has read. Jessie reads well, but she hasn’t gotten to the Aha! Moment when comprehension about the plot sinks in. It’s coming though, and our part is to keep a steady supply of new books coming.

Recently, Jessie and her sister, Emily, have received several books about a young lady named Missy and her adventures. These are called Branches Books and are for beginning readers. There have also been Jack and the Snackstalk: A Branches Book (Princess Pink and the Land of Fake-Believe and Little Red Quacking Hood: A Branches Book (Princess Pink and the Land of Fake-Believe. Jessie has read Princess Pink to me and I have thoroughly enjoyed her through the looking glass sort of tales, except she makes her entrance into The Land of Fake-Believe through the refrigerator. All of this beats the heck out of Dick and Jane and Spot, which is what us beginning readers were treated to in school.

Luckily for me, my family possessed a complete set, ten volumes, of Compton’s Pictured Encyclopedia, copyrighted in 1922. I spent my formative reading years lying somewhere in bad lighting reading through Compton’s, which I still have, by the way. The Table of Contents for Vol. 7 includes Tales For The Story Hour, Little Talks on Great Things, Parent and Child, School and Home and ends with Rambles Through Factland. Books have been present in our home always. All over. We all read and we have been blessed with a wonderful library just a few blocks away. Reading has been easy.

However, not everyone is so fortunate. An article in the Los Angeles Times yesterday told of Zoila Gallegos efforts to bring books and reading to Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall in Downey, where she has worked for the last nine years. Zoila is the child of immigrants who grew up in South Los Angeles and she struggled with reading, poverty and violence in her neighborhood. She was the first in her family to graduate from high school. She is now a reading specialist with the Los Angeles County Office of Education. Her  mission is to extend opportunity to the struggling readers she teaches. A year and a half ago, she stepped up and around the hierarchical world of bureaucracy and sent a letter to a county supervisor asking for a library. “Many of the small libraries in the living units are in dismal condition,” she wrote, “and we hope you can allocate funding that will replace old worn-out books.” Believe it or not, there is a new library at Los Padrinos with 4,000 books and a full-time on-site librarian. Just after the new library opened, the first two kids walked through the door. ‘I want to cry. I’m in book heaven.”

“Here’s a kid with tattoos, gangster, and he’s reading ‘Harry Potter’” Gallegos said. After showing the judge his certificates for all the books he had read, his sentence got knocked down from a year to six months.

Here’s some good news: The population of the three juvenile halls is down from a high of more than 1,700 in 2006 to less than half of that. “Hopefully in the future as population numbers go down, we see less and less need for these facilities. My hope is that we get to a point where we’re not just saying, ‘We have a library for you while you’re in jail.’” (Excerpted from Los Angeles Times Reporter Amy Sewell.)

“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” Joseph Addison

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, the man who never reads lives only one.” George RR Martin

“Reading is dreaming with open eyes.”