Don’t Go Changin’

One of our board members, Stephanie Anderson, writes a column for her kids’ school newsletter, “Beaver Notes” from Loyal Heights Elementry.  This time she wrote about volunteering with her kids at our Book Sale.  The kids’ names have been changed to protect their identity.

Last weekend I brought seven kids to work at the semi-annual Friends of the Library Book Sale at Magnuson Park.  Scooter and Cupcake have worked every sale since they were little.  They like putting on the Friends’ green volunteer vests, choosing the two free books they earn for volunteering, and making forts of the empty boxes they collect.  Mostly they like the volunteer lounge, full of Top Pot donuts and other treats.  A few years ago I began inviting their friends, and put them all to work.  This time was different, though:  I had four seventh grade boys – I wasn’t too worried about that – but I also had three third graders and I was scheduled to cashier in the CD/DVD section in a building across the street from where they would be.

 As we donned our vests and name tags, I told Cupcake and her friends that, no matter what, they needed to stay together and check in with me.  They nodded solemnly while I spoke but I could tell they were thinking only of the Top Pot donuts arrayed invitingly before them. 

The CD/DVD section was hopping.  I couldn’t leave for over an hour.  When the crowd finally thinned, I raced over to the main building.  Cupcake and one friend were busily straightening books in the children’s section and the other friend, whistling, was toting a stack of empty boxes to the back room.  My heart swelled with pride.

The next time I checked I found them kicked back in the volunteer lounge popping Top Pot donuts in their mouths.  I shooed them back to work and checked on the older boys. In their bright yellow Whitman Ultimate Frisbee jerseys they were easy to spot, fanned out across hundreds of thousands of books, cheerfully carrying empty boxes on their heads to the back room where they were building elaborate interconnected box forts reaching almost to the ceiling.  Raised on Legos, every one of them.

On my next break I browsed the CDs.  Nothing really grabbed me and I was about to stop looking when I saw it:  Billy Joel’s Greatest Hits Volumes I and II.  As I perused the song list I was a young girl again hearing Just the Way You Are for the very first time.  I realized with a start that I had grown up with Billy Joel – from Piano Man when I was Cupcake’s age, to You’re Only Human when I was old enough to drink.  I’d hang out on my bed and daydream of how my life would be when I was a grown up; I was impatient for something – anything – to happen to me because it seemed nothing ever did.  I thought about Cupcake voicing similar sentiments:  “I don’t want to shower!”  “I wish I could drive.”  “Nothing exciting’s happening.”

Clutching my CD I wanted to tell my nine year old daughter, while you are impatiently waiting for something to happen, imperceptible things are happening to you every day, shaping who you are – you just don’t realize it; and don’t wish it away.    

Just then Cupcake and her two friends came tearing into the building, hopping around and demanding lunch money.  “Don’t come with us,” Cupcake said sternly.  “We’re going to buy lunch ourselves and I’ll bring you back the change.”  And just like that they were gone.  Watching Cupcake walk away I detected a swagger in her step; the Queen of the Book Sale.  


NPR Story Corps: Learning To Read

NPR Story Corps elicits the same reaction in me as an interviewee of Barbara Walters – I usually get misty. This story was no different. Here’s a bit from the website:

“Joe Buford, 63, has a high school diploma but kept a secret, even from his family: He couldn’t read.

“I could memorize things,” he says. “I call it drawing the words …. Nobody in my family really knew how bad it was with me and how hurt I was over it.”

Buford’s wife didn’t know about his reading problem until after they were married, he says.”

He goes on..

“Before Buford had children, he worried that “what was wrong with me would be passed on to my kids.” He was afraid they wouldn’t learn to read. “It just broke my heart,” he says.

He was terrified of the prospect of having to read to his young daughters. “

It never fails to amaze me how far people can get on such little education. This gentleman has gone through the education, medical, and tax systems not knowing how to read. He’s raised a family, held a job and gone through every day life with an over arching fear and shame that was finally lifted in his mid-60’s.

Definitely a testament to the “never too late” approach to self development, but also inspiring from a community perspective. Here was a volunteer who spent time with him, helped him learn, in an environment that was safe – in this case an adult literacy center in Nashville.

“I jumped up and ran through the house. It made me cry and I’m thinking, ‘Wow, it really is sinking in.'”

That is exactly how I felt (sans crying) when I first learned to read. So excited, so enthusiastic about learning – on my way to being a student of life and those around me.

To read more or listen to the program, click here

For a search on adult literacy at the SPL, click here as well as their literacy section.