Vol. 8, No. 47
Nov. 22-29, 2000
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Front Lines of Literacy
Give Thanks for the Blessing of Reading
By Lori L. Sikorski

I love this time of year. The trees stand sharp against a sapphire blue sky. Warm cups of cocoa and spiced tea join the evening snack list. I look forward to early sunsets and threats of snow and begin long lists for holiday preparations, jotting down many dates for school plays and winter concerts while I ponder over everything I have to be thankful for.

I am very thankful that I am able to express my thoughts to you in writing - and thankful that each of you can and do read them. Reading has become a skill we take for granted. But it isn't one to take lightly. Imagine what life would be like if you could not read.

Would you know what today's date and day are? Could you take the right amount of medications? You couldn't travel far if you couldn't read a map. Your bills would not get paid because you would not know what amount was due. Purchasing groceries would be a frustrating task. If the label did not have a picture of corn or peas, would you get what you wanted? How would you know what you were paying or if your change was correct?

We have these survival skills because we can read. Because we learned to read when we were young, reading - and all that comes with it - is now as natural as taking a breath. Who stops to remember the power we felt when we read our first words?

New readers remind us of the magic. Have you ever watched six-year-olds read aloud? Their fingers trace the sentences, and you can hear the self-satisfaction in their voices as the words come from their lips.

When the new reader is an adult, the enthusiasm and self-respect are even greater. Recently I watched as an older man read a poem aloud. It was not the composition or its subject that moved me but the fact that this man, who must have been in his early 70s, was a new reader.

Watching his face glow and seeing the pride in his posture, I was reminded that reading is a gift. Many of us receive it while we are very young, while others receive their gift after long waiting and with much effort. Whatever their age, new readers treasure their gift as a victory.

The next time you read, try to imagine what it would be like to read with understanding for the first time. Study the title and the illustrations, summarize what you have just read and savor words that bring a smile to your face. Identify one or more facts and form an opinion. Make predictions, live in the setting and visualize the characters. Reading is truly a gift as well as a blessing. It can take us to far distant places and bring the world to our feet.

As we gather together this Thanksgiving, be thankful for the company, their health and well-being. Rejoice in each other's blessings and count all that you have. In the list of all you have, add the blessing of reading. Remember what a large part reading plays your life and think of those who have yet to experience such a gift.

In this thankful season, write a letter of thanks to the person who taught you how to read. If your teacher is no longer here on earth, write to someone who is learning to read and tell them of the wonderful experiences to come.

We can do more than give thanks. Adult literacy programs need volunteers. School classes are enriched by visits of volunteer readers. Donations to libraries, schools and senior centers make new readers for your favorite books.

Front Lines of Literacy is Bay Weekly's monthly commentary on how we learn to read. In December, Front Lines will review favorite books for gifts to readers of all ages. Share your favorite by writing in care of Front Lines to [email protected] by Friday, December 1.

Copyright 2000
Bay Weekly