By Alice Ozma, author of The Reading Promise
Earlier this year, a special memoir was published, one which caught our attention—partially because it is in sync with our company’s values. Indigo’s Love of Reading Foundation highlights the importance of literacy, and aims to keep kids reading through improving the quality of school libraries in order to create lifelong readers.
Alice Ozma’s The Reading Promise is a special work about a father who fostered a love of reading in his own child. When she was in the fourth grade, her father (a school librarian) started a reading marathon with his daughter: they would read together for 100 consecutive nights. The thing was, when the 100 nights was up, neither of them wanted to stop, so they didn’t. Alice’s father read to her every night until she left for college.
A book about fostering the love of reading in your kids, worth checking out for any parent interested in making their children life-long readers. In this blog, Alice shares her story of the genesis of the book, and how her life has changed since.
When my book was published on May 3rd of this year, it was just under a year since my college graduation—354 days to be precise. It's been a wild ride.
During my last semester of college, I wrote an essay about my father reading to me, every night without missing a night, from fourth grade until my first day of college. I intended to use the essay as part of an application for graduate school, but my Shakespeare professor read it over and saw potential. She contacted the University’s Office of Media & Public Relations, which pitched the story to The New York Times. To my surprise, the Times bit.
From 10 a.m. the day the article was published and for the next few weeks, my phone quite literally did not stop ringing. I had to turn it on silent to sleep, and whenever I woke up, there were voicemails from people from the worlds of television, film, and publishing. As an English major, the offer to write a book intrigued me. I’d always felt like I should write something about my father; why not do it now? I chose my agent and publisher eight days after the piece ran, and I'm happy to say that I know now I made the right decision. They are both a perfect fit for me. Once all of that was secured, however, I went back to being a normal college student for a few weeks…I had finals coming up.
I wrote for five weeks, edited off and on for a few months, and started making appearances in January. People were unabashedly shocked by my story. Why had my father and I read for so long? How did we manage to never, ever miss a night, after all those years? Could I possibly have grown into a normal, oxygen-breathing adult after being raised in a hothouse full of love and literature? The answers to the former questions, I tell them, are in my book. The answer to the latter I like to let them make themselves.
My signings generally advertise a “talk, Q&A, and signing,” but really, it’s a discussion. Once we get into questions, one leads to another, I start asking the audience questions, and the next thing I know I’m sitting back in my chair, nodding occasionally but mostly just soaking it in. Deep down, I’m still just a little girl who loves to hear a story. And the people who attend my signings tend to have great ones.
There’s the woman who escaped Nazi Germany as a young girl with the man she’s now been married to for over sixty years. Her dyslexia is bad, and his vision has gone, but they listen to audio books together every night. There’s the gaggle of junior high girls from New Jersey who came up to me, gum popping and beaded braids jangling, to tell me in detail about their favorite classics. There’s the mother and daughter who read my book, my very own book, and came to my signing to tell me about the reading marathon it inspired them to start. They call it The Quest. We called it The Streak. But more and more, I find that it’s all the same. Everywhere, people are reading. And everywhere, they want to tell me about it.
The more I travel, the more I see that being an author isn’t about telling your story: it’s about learning new ones. For someone who was read to every single night without fail, you can’t ask for a better career.
Thanks to our friends at Hachette for facilitating this blog, and to Alice Ozma herself for its composition.
Author photo credit: Ryan Collerd.
Headlines about school library closures break my heart. It is impossible for me to imagine a school without a library. Besides the classroom, it is the hub of information, where one person (or a few) has the skills to not only help you find what you are looking for, but shows you how to look for it. The recent announcement about two school library closures in Ontario hits home that this hub of information will be lost to students.
My librarian taught me the importance of research, that fact checking, critical reading and understanding where you get the information is about as important as the information itself. My librarian was like a magician, using his mystical fingers to search on computer databases and index cards, pointing me to undiscovered lands of enchantment.
Students in Windsor understood this as they staged a protest this morning telling their school board that they didn’t want to see their library closed. Reading how these students feel about their librarians, it is clear that although the technology might have changed since I was in High School, the need for librarians and libraries hasn’t.
Besides writing your local M.P.P. (and M.P.) there is another thing that we can do to take action and help school libraries stay open across the country. The Indigo Love of Reading Foundation is dedicated to funding schools so they can buy the books they need to promote literacy across Canada. This June, they will be announcing their next round of grants. (I have yet to sit through listening to one of these phone calls, or watch the documentary Writing on the Wall, without weeping). This next $1.5 million will bring the total funds donated by the foundation to $10.5 million to 110 schools since 2004.
Right now, at your local Chapters or Indigo branch, employees are starting the 2011 Adopt a School program, where each store selects their adopted school for the September fundraising campaign. Next time you are in one of our stores, ask one of our employees which school they are raising money for. You never know, it could be the one in your very own backyard. In this little way, we can hope to keep school libraries open, librarians working, and most of all, our children reading.
I read some depressing news to start the week.
Firstly, this story from the LA Times Jacket Copy book blog, in which school board librarians are being subjected to McCarthy-like inquisitions regarding their qualifications, in order that the board can justify their terminations.
Then, this one from the Toronto Star, in which the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board has laid off all but four of their library technicians (not teacher librarians, of course, they cost more) and shut down all its libraries. There is a scheduled student protest today.
In the Windsor-Essex case, the libraries will have their books divided piecemeal and placed into the classrooms (because we all remember how much free time we had during class). How do they decide which books go in which room? How do they determine the limits for a particular class of students’ reading material?
This is a worrying trend. I witnessed the start of these changes in the 90s as space in libraries was given over to computers. Then in university, I found that periodicals and other works were no longer on the shelf, but were instead digitized (and therefore cheaper). When my alumni association came asking for donations, they could not guarantee that my money, earmarked for the school libraries, would go to the arts library instead of the science and engineering one, or that it would even be spent on books instead of computers.
I also recall a story of a professor I knew who, to save the books in his field from being down-sized, checked out every title so that the recent activity on the library system would prevent their removal and sale.
School libraries are an integral part of learning. The ability to browse, find a new favourite read or, with the help of an experienced librarian, expand your world is invaluable. The case is especially true for children who come from homes which don’t have books on the shelves.
Schools should not be a place to create automatons, ready to pull levers in contribution to the economy, but to expand the mind. School libraries, and their librarians, are essential in this.
For more information on a way to help school libraries across the country, do check out the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Kids come home from school bursting with stories. In classrooms, teachers are reading about the holiday season, winter wonderlands, and different worlds. At home, families are cozying up under warm blankets with hot cocoa reading bedtime stories.
But that doesn’t happen everywhere. Schools across Canada continue to deal with shrinking budgets, and teachers, like my mom, have to go into their own pockets to buy books for their classrooms. Kids don’t come home with books for bedtime because the ones in the classroom are falling apart and too delicate to take outside. Did you know that 40 years ago many Canadian school districts budgeted to buy three books per child every year? Today it’s only about a third of a book.
Teachers, it is time. Time to change the state of your school by applying for the Indigo Love of Reading Literacy Grant! Established in 2004, this grant gives $1.5 million each year to 20 high-needs provincially funded elementary schools across Canada. Until the Canadian government commits funds to elementary school libraries, the Foundation is committed to putting more books in children’s hands.
Download the application and share it with your principal. http://loveofreading.org/code/navigate.asp?Id=10
Applications are due FEBRUARY 11, 2011.
Here are some tips and sample applications to guide you in this process:
Listen to the life-changing calls from previous winners when they find out they have won a Literacy Fund grant here: http://www.loveofreading.org/code/navigate.asp?Id=105
To keep up to date with Love of Reading be sure to:
I’m Melanie, the Kids and Teens Editor for chapters.indigo.ca. I’m obsessed with Kids’ and YA books and haven’t read a fiction book for adults in probably a year because there is just too much good YA to read. If I were to choose between Zombies and Unicorns, I would be Team Zombie. Check out the group that I manage on the Indigo Community.