On Friday, Susan talked about literacy. In a list of sad statistics, what struck me the most was the depressing fact that over half the low-income households in our country contain no childrens' books inside. I can't imagine my own childhood sans books. My own kids spend probably half their leisure hours with their noses stuffed into a story, and we are fortunate, I realize, to have shelves crammed with books throughout our house.
Tomorrow is April Fool's Day. Why don't we all do something about that?
The May 1 when my daughter was two, we visited the local flower shop and bought a dozen roses, then stood on the walking trail and she handed them out with a "Happy May Day!" I love that archaic holiday, a completely selfless celebration of beauty. No one much celebrates it in the 21st Century, which is a shame as far as I'm concerned. Since that first flash of brilliance on that spring morning, nearly every year we've made May Day bouquets. We usually target a woman over sixty as the recipient, though they've been gifted to friends, relatives, strangers, teachers. Delight is the universal response, and in a month, we'll repeat the tradition.
But now, inspired by the statistic of too many homes having too few books, I've decided to start a new ritual. I'm going to hand out books. Mostly to kids. "April Smarts!" I'll say, and I'll resist the urge to slip a spider down the back of their shirt as I hand off a copy of Junie B. Jones or Harry Potter or whatever story the child chooses from my stash. Probably I'll concentrate on little kids the most, partly because those are the kids I'll be able to easily encounter while my own kids are in school all day. But I'll have a variety of books on hand, from picture books to engrossing reads that might turn a thirteen-year-old on the cusp of becoming a lifelong non-reader into a bookworm. And yes, I'll head beyond my usual comfortable middle-class stomping grounds and seek out families who might not have the disposable income to say "Yes" if "Can I buy this book?" is asked. Sure, I realize this probably isn't going to dramatically change anyone's life. But it might change their day, and who knows what happens from there.
Want to join me? April Smarts Day is tomorrow. I'm going to gather at least 20 books to give away to kids (and maybe a few to hand off to adults as well). What about you?