Friday, July 22, 2005

A Query and a Response

Adults are constantly challenged by young folk who are increasingly looking toward them for role model advocacy and mentorship. The intelligence quotient and knowledge base that we give and leave them with as we embark on shaping minds and steering courses will go a long way in their growth. I tell my grandkids and siblings that what you read is so important in the grand scheme of things. My immediate challenge was brought to the surface as Aaliyah recently asked me a question that I answered with great enthusiasm. Aaliyah is my oldest grandchild, who herself is an avid reader and far-exceeding student. Her question: “When did you start reading, and why is it necessary to read anyway?” I looked at her bemused, knowing that this was one of her many trick questions to prolong our time together. Acquiescing to the game, I tried my best to allay fears that reading was not as automatic as it has been for her. I decided to make good on an earlier promise to give reasons for little people of color to stay the course and allow books to be the progenitor of their own knowledge base.

Here is what I told her:
“My first encounter with books began with a question mark, and continues today emphatically as an exclamation point! I cannot remember the first book I read, nor can I recall how many, but I do profess to have an on-going love affair for the written word. I’m an essayist. I write with spontaneity that starts innately and flows outwardly with cascading force. As such, when I was quite young I was in awe of the librarian of the elementary school I attended. Of course, she was the first who impressed upon me the many virtues of reading. Writing prowess came much later. Mrs. Kimbro was her name. An erudite and taciturn women who embodied a no nonsense persona who rarely smiled, she commanded attention and dominated any space she accumulated. This revered librarian was indeed special, for she instilled in me a profound respect for books that has served and educated me through out my life.

Reading is fundamental and requires discipline. Oftentimes it can define you in ways you’d never imagine. It’s the basic fabric that weaves my soul and invigorates my mind. We as individuals are stimulated by many things and influenced by circumstances relative to experiences central to certain nuances…and today we’re STILL wondering why Johnnie can’t read, or won’t read. Too many young people are missing out on the pleasures and opportunities that come with reading. As an inquisitive child thirsting for knowledge, Mrs. Kimbro constantly challenged me to understand what I read long after the Lord called her to do the same in heaven. It has been my contention that it’s familial in nature and should have beginnings in the home. Parents can do a lot to nurture and prepare their children for the world of books. For some, it comes down to the lack of interest (in reading), and yet for others, it’s definitely a lack of ability. The latter is my greatest concern, because ultimately it harkens back to the genesis of the problem – apathy and an uncaring disposition. I will always query myself to the tune of, ‘Are parents doing all they can to expose them to all things literary…and, are our schools providing the best curricula of inclusion for more reading?”

I’m concerned too, about this stated lack of ability to read exponentially for greater enhancement. Children should have as much access needed to perpetuate acquiring knowledge to expand wisdom. Lack of interest on the other hand, should equally be foremost in our minds as catalysts to be continually involved to elicit solutions. As learned adults we can endeavor to make a difference by becoming involved, and personally, I’ve committed myself to enmesh myself totally to literacy efforts in my community. My non-profit organization is making inroads for legitimacy and clamoring for high visibility. I’m embracing book clubs to avail themselves to area elementary and Middle schools to champion the cause of reading as a serious paradigm for cognitive results. I often think back to selected instances of my past where reading spared me the pain of being lost in my own darkness. As early as I can remember, I likened it to my dawn of awareness where those books that Mrs. Kimbro instilled me to read as being the first day of my life”

As I finished my spiel, Aaliyah looked at me with those plaintive and pleading eyes and implored me to stay the course and not waiver in my quest to be a force in this journey. Inasmuch as I wanted her to stay, she gently told me that she had more books to read and an essay to write…it was then, more than ever that I realize that another bibliophile and book worm is on the way -- Look out world!

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