September 1, 2011 10:30:00 AM
Scott Colom - [email protected]
A recent trip to Young''s DayCare brought back memories of my first book. Young''s has a special place in my heart because of my daycare days, so being there always makes me a little nostalgic. What''s more, my father and I were there to volunteer for the local affiliate of "First Books," a national organization dedicated to improving access to books for low-income children. Accordingly, the nostalgia reminded me of when I didn''t like to read.
Before middle school, I read mostly because of my parents. As infants, they read to my brother and me as much as they could. Then, during the elementary years, they pressured us to do well in school, and since I had to learn how to read to learn everything else, they forced me to read a lot.
But, starting in middle school, I began to dislike reading. I stopped reading homework and started performing poorly on reading assignments and tests. My parents soon noticed the digression and asked me about it. I told them I didn''t like reading, that it was boring, and that I was only interested in basketball. Like all my friends, I wanted to be "like Mike," so I told them I needed to spend my spare time playing pickup basketball and practicing my game-winning jump shot.
In response, my father, a man known to have a temper, didn''t say much. He shook his head and appeared to think about what I had said. The following week, though, he asked me to read the sport''s page and tell him what I read. He claimed he wanted to learn about my new hobby and idol. After that, he made this request at least once a week and I got in the habit of reading the sport''s page every day.
One day, we were in an airport and passed a book store, and he asked me to help him shop for a book. While in the store, I noticed the book "Jordan Rules." The back cover called it a behind the scenes depiction of Michael Jordan and had quotes about fights with teammates and a gambling addiction. When I asked my father to buy it, he didn''t make a joke about me being spoiled, as he did with most purchases. He quickly agreed and asked me to tell him if it was any good. And that was how I got my first book.
Nowadays, I read as much as I can. It''s my most enjoyable and important hobby. It allows me to enjoy the creativity of our imagination through fiction, and learn the history of our world through non-fiction. Of course, I may not have had this pleasure if it had not been for the machinations of my father. His tactics seem barely hidden in hindsight but, at the time, I didn''t know my dad was using my interests to create a hobby of reading in me.
That''s the magic "First Books" is trying to spread. They think the hobby of reading will improve every child. They are betting the more books in kids'' hands, the better they''ll be. As a result, the organization has distributed more than 80 million books to schools and community groups.
I''m sure every book given away isn''t read, and that a few kids may throw their book away. But what about the kids that don''t throw it away, the ones who read it. They may read it and then decide to read another, and another, and then decide to become a writer, or a teacher, or a scientist. How do we make sure that child gets a book and the chance to reach his or her potential without giving all children a book, without giving them all a chance? We can''t.
Scott Colom is a local attorney.