“Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world.”

-Malala Yousafzei

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Reading Is Truly Fundamental by David Williams

With this being my 3rd year of participating in Lead to Read, I can’t help but smile thinking of the smiling young faces as we walk into the classrooms each week. But I also think about how the children’s reading abilities progress from the beginning of the school year to the end of the school year. I also think about some of the unfortunate stories, and the harsh realities of so many of the children’s home lives. Having grown up myself in the inner city of Kansas City Kansas, I thought I would easily be able to relate to their external environments. I found nothing was further from the truth. It seems that far too many children come from not broken, but shattered, homes. I listened to the story of the child that said he had to go to bed each night around 7:30 p.m., just so he had a spot on the bed. He said there would be up to 8 other children who had to sleep in that same room. He said if you were lucky you slept on the twin bed; if not, you slept on the floor. Another child said he virtually slept each night at a different home, depending on the day of the week.

Now don’t get me wrong, not all of their stories are so depressing, but again, far too many are. So as I sit here and look back on all those faces, the one thing that comes to mind is that all any of them want is to be noticed. They want us adults to show that we care. So for 30 minutes each week we, the volunteer Readers of “Lead to Read,” give them that personal attention. We show them we care, and by coming back week after week, we build trust. They feel special that their Reader is coming, just for them.

Having a 2nd grader myself and watching her reading skills develop, I take great satisfaction in knowing I can be a part of helping a child with not all the same advantages as mine, hopefully stand side by side with the same confidence as her, and to be able to go after the same job as her someday. Maybe someday these kids can speak to the generation after them about how they achieved success against all odds.

In order to achieve this, I revert to my title, “Reading is Truly Fundamental.” Too many of our children are told they are “the next great thing” when it involves sports. Parents will show up at a little league game, yet not show up at a parent-teacher conference. Maybe they are “the next great thing,” but if I can’t read a playbook, then what? How can I be a team player? If I can’t read a script or the words to a song, how can I get “the big part?” Now for the 99% who are just like you and I are, if I can’t read, how can I fill out the job application or create a resume?

So to those of you who have taken the time to invest an hour each week with Lead to Read, I say thank you. If you are already a part of Lead to Read, you know the smiling faces and the gratification I speak of. If you have taken the time to read this and you are not currently a part of Lead to Read, all I can say is there is a child out there who would love for you to show them you care!!!