I run a program called Books for Boys at The Children's Village. We distribute books and read to the boys there. The children who live there are all from New York's foster care system and love so much to be read to. Believe it or not, I was proud when I saw books begin to be stolen at The Children's Village, because, at first, none of the boys were that interested in the books. They wanted video games. But when we started our campaign of reading aloud to them, they fell under the reading spell. I started to see them slipping one into their pockets. I would smile and say: "I know you love books. I am so proud of you for that. But I will do two things to help you with your new passion: one is to show you how to use the library and also, I am going to buy you the one you love." It is welcoming them into the literacy culture. Stealing books was the first sign of their entry!
Isn't that absolutely wonderful? It just goes to show what a difference reading to children can make! I grew up with parents who read to me or told me stories and I did the same with my children. I still have at least two books that I'm reading on my bedside table. While the boys' theft of books might seem bad, remembering that they come from homes and the mean streets where conditions range from bad to horrific is the key. That they truly loved the books so much that they would take them is indication, in my mind, that Pam and her cohorts may be saving these children from all sorts of dire fates of which illiteracy is only one. All of us here in the Blogosphere know the power of the written word all too well and I'm sure we can appreciate the importance of what Pam is doing for them. TV commercials that say "Reading is fundamental." are fine and dandy but the "hands on" encouragement Pam and her co-workers are giving these boys is invaluable. My heart and applause go out to them for passing on their love of books to these underprivileged kids in an often unforgiving system.