Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Give the gift of reading (it's free, after all)

I was thrilled to hear about an anonymous donor in the Pottstown area who has pledged to donate $1 to the Pottstown YWCA Tri-County Area Adult Literacy program every time someone "signs" an online petition (find it below), and I was inspired to write a few thoughts about literacy.

Many of The Mercury's Town Square Bloggers did the same during the month of November as part of our Read and Write for Literacy campaign. (I'm bringing up the tail end of the month.)

The first thing that popped in my mind was not a book, but a song: "Cherry Tree" from the 10,000 Maniacs album "In My Tribe" that came out the year I graduated from high school (1990). It's a catchy tune (as most songs sung by the richly-voiced Natalie Merchant are) about someone who doesn't know how to read and desperately wants in on the world where the characters on the page tell an interesting story. Here are the lyrics (take a listen):

10000 Maniacs
Cherry Tree lyrics

[ Robert Buck/Natalie Merchant ]

Over your shoulder, please don't mind me
If my eyes have fallen onto your magazine
OH I've been watching and wondering
Why your face is changing with every line you read.

All those lines and circles, to me, a mystery.
Eve pull down the apple and give taste to me.
If she could it would be wonderful, but my pride is in the way.
I cannot read to save my life, I'm so ashamed to say.

I live in silence, afraid to speak
Of my life in darkness because I cannot read.

For all those lines and circles, to me, a mystery.
Eve pull down the apple and give taste to me.
If she could it would be wonderful.
Then I wouldn't need someone else's eyes to see what's in front of me.
No one guiding me.

It makes me humble to be so green
At what every kid can do when he learns A to Z,

But all those lines and circles just frighten me
And I fear that I'll be trampled if you don't reach for me.
Before I run I'll have to take a fall.
And then pick myself up, so slowly I'll devour every one of those books in the Tower of Knowledge.

I heartily agree that a life without reading would be a "life in darkness."

My mom says I learned how to read at a young age, trying to keep up with my older brother and sister. She recalls that I, as young as age 5, would tuck her into her bed and then go back to my room to read awhile before sleep. I always had a bookshelf full of books of my choosing or hand-me-downs from my siblings. I can't remember the early, early favorites (oh, it's been so long...), but I do remember being quite fond of the Nancy Drew mysteries, of which we had a full set, the Ramona books and anything by Judy Blume.

I also loved spending time in the library at Boalsburg-Panorama Elementary, where Mrs. Knob and Mrs. Ritchie would to read us magical stories such as Shel Silverstein's "Where the Sidewalk Ends." I was enchanted. Being able to pick out a new book to take home and devour was like picking out a new present every visit.

I think it's a gift, to love reading, to want to attempt to write stories like the most imaginative authors do. It certainly has inspired me in my journalism career.

That's why I'm asking your help in supporting the literacy program at the Pottstown YWCA. There, volunteer tutors help folks who have advanced into adulthood without the benefit of learning to read. Please fill out the form below and $1 will be donated to this cause by an anonymous donor. If my name's not on the blogger list, just choose another (My blog is considered separate from the Town Square bloggers).

Each name and valid e-mail address nets the program $1

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