The Literacy Site blog informs me that today is International literacy day, and in celebration I thought I would share my experience of the importance of literacy.
Now, I don’t remember my first book, but knowing my mother it was read to me and at a very young age. By young, I mean before I had a conscious concept of myself much less something so abstract as a book. I have no doubt that it was something like The Little Engine That Could, or Green Eggs and Ham, or some other childhood classic. It is to this that I attest my obsession with growing my collection of children’s books. That is in circles where the explanation, “Because I like children’s books” is not an acceptable enough reason for such a collection.
However, if I were to rely on the memory of my childhood bookshelves and boxes eventually given to the used bookstore, I would guess that I have read or been read, at least, the following:
- Caps for Sale
- How to Eat Fried Worms
- The Velveteen Rabbit
- Curious George
- Goodnight Moon
- Charlotte’s Web
- The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
- The Giving Tree
- The Monster at the End of this Book
- James and the Giant Peach
- Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Of course, this is not an exhaustive list, but I have no specific memory of reading these or any other childhood books. None whatsoever. I’m sure that I’ve read them, of course. I mean they sat in my room until I was 10, but of most of them, I couldn’t recite a single line.
My passion for the importance of reading and advocating for literacy education comes from the books that I do remember – the books that meant something, and continue to mean something today. Some of them were integral to my understanding of human nature. Some of them helped me cope with the challenges I have faced in my life. Some of them touched me so deeply that I still carry with me the same feeling that I had when I shut the cover every time I think of them. And some of them were just plain fun!
It was recommended to me once that I write a memoir, and I remember thinking, who would read a memoir about me? What would I write about? I’m not that interesting, or at least nothing of interest has really happened to me. A straight memoir about my life can be summed up in a few words: Born in suburbs; Attended public school; 2.5 adorable children and a dog (of which I was one – the children, not the dog). As you can see, there isn’t a lot there. Pretty much every other kid in suburbia has had my life. We are not the Kennedys; we are not the Jacksons; we are not the Clintons; we’re not even the Joneses – although we were the first ones in my neighborhood to own a CD player and, I think, a computer. So you see, I wasn’t even deprived of anything, except the Power Wheels I always wanted. And why didn’t I get the Power Wheels? Because my parents agreed that they wanted my brother and I to have self-propelling vehicles to encourage activity and exercise. That’s right. I don’t even have a weight problem. What the could I possibly write about in a memoir?
But a trip to the bookstore made me see things in a different light. As I browsed the shelves, both in the children’s section and general fiction, I saw book after book which, for me, defined a certain experience or time in my life As I walked out, and got in my car, I started thinking of my life in books, and when I did that I found remembering a book that I read made me remember a specific event, which for one reason or another, was tied to it. Maybe it was because the book made an event more meaningful, or maybe I read the book during a secure or happy time and it brings me a contented feeling, or maybe I had to stand in line for an hour because all of a sudden Everybody In The World has to have the latest Harry Potter. Whatever the reason, it turns out I can associate most of the memories I have with one book or another. Just like one song can bring you back to your high school prom, so can one book touch you so deeply that it will remain with you forever. That is the importance of literacy.