Today my friend Dylan Goldberg is driving 5,000 books into Baltimore City. Children's books, donated by people all over Howard County. You can read more about how this all began here. In honor of Dylan, Anna Mudd, Beth Panageotou, Courtney Watson, and others who worked on this project, I am re-running this post from August 21, 2012.
To Have and to Hold
I love books. I have loved books all my life. I remember the Little Golden Books of my childhood--Mister Dog, Hansel and Gretel, The Poky Little Puppy. I remember my mother reading to me at bedtime from a book of children's poems. Oh, how I wished that I had seen the battle between the Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat, or that there really was a Sugarplum Tree in the Garden of Shuteye Town!
When I was quite young, my grandfather gave me a book that changed my life. It was The Bennett Cerf Book of Pop Up Riddles. It was one of the first books that was ever given to me, to have for my very own. I was the youngest of three and had plenty of books in the hand-me-down sort of way. But this was a book that had been meant for me to have from the very start.
It was some book, alright. The pages were shiny cardboard, with brightly-colored illustrations that could open up, pop up, slide over and spring out. No one in my family had ever seen anything like it. My mother warned me to be quite careful with it. I had terrible fine motor skills as a child and I'm sure she thought I would destroy it through frustration or lack of finesse.
Not this book. I won't tell you how many years have passed, but this book has made it through me and my two daughters, and it is still completely functional. (Not perfect. A little "loved.") My daughters knew that they had to ask special permission to read it, and have heard me repeat Mother's admonishment to me countless times, "You have to be careful with it. Books are our friends."
Books are our friends. Scientific studies and anecdotal observations show that poor children have very little exposure to books in the home, if at all. It is one of the significant strikes against them when they begin school. The seeds of school success, fostered through many a bedtime read-aloud, are unknown to them.
Our schools have media centers, and our county has wonderful libraries. But I can tell you from personal experience that nothing can replace the feeling of having a beautiful book of your very own: your book, to read, and read again; to bring for Show and Tell; to sleep with, to dream about, and wake up with. To have and to hold.
Dylan and others in Howard County reacted to the unrest in Baltimore City by looking beyond the violence and seeing the crushing poverty behind the daily news headlines. What started out as an emergency response to get food, water, and other necessary supplies to those who needed them most grew into something more: a mission to serve children. And that's where the books come in. They will be distributed today to Teach for America first-year teachers who serve in some of Baltimore City's most difficult areas, and shared with children who may never have owned a book before.
If you want to help, the need is ongoing. There will be a concert on October 3rd to raise money for the Penn North youth center:
Join us for the first ever Artists Showcase Concert co-sponsored by Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbia's Social Action Council and Music Ministry. The concert supports Penn North's new youth center in Baltimore City, a safe place for youth to play, study, and hang out.