Jackson’s annual Accelerated Reader parade was originally scheduled for last week, but storms forced it to be changed. The weather for the past few days has been perfect, despite storms that came through last week.
The longer days, the sunshine, the heat…summer is definitely on its way. First, school has to end. Only then is it “officially” summer, just ask any student! The end of the school year means celebrations. Tuesday, students from Gillmore Elementary and Jackson Intermediate took to the streets to celebrate reaching their Accelerated Reading goals.
The annual AR parade was exciting and well-attended by parents and grandparents who were on hand to congratulate students who met or exceeded individual reading goals.
I relate greatly to Harper Lee’s famous quote: “Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.” It’s as natural a response for me as blinking or taking my next breath. I love to read, but the AR parade caused me to stop and appreciate the ability to read and the ones who helped me develop the skill and the love for it.
I honestly don’t remember not knowing how to read. My mom, my grandmothers and my greatgrandmothers all read to me and with me. I “read” to my pets way before I ever boarded a school bus. The bookmobile and trips to the old library in Chatom were summertime treats. I quickly discovered the classroom library and then the school library. There was no AR when I was in school, but my elementary teachers rewarded readers with trinkets and extra reading time. No parades, but there was encouragement.
Although my elementary days are long gone, I still love to read. I own a Kindle Oasis now, but I still buy physical books, also. The Kindle allows me to have all of my favorites portable and easily accessible while I am waiting on Tatum’s band practice or choir rehearsal to end. It also allows me to read in bed without turning on the lamp and disrupting my husband’s sleep. I can download any book I want at any time I want. It’s a good thing this technology wasn’t around when I was younger!
For the children that skipped and marched through downtown today, I truly hope that each of them become lifelong readers. Twenty-four percent of Americans report that they have not read a book, even a portion of a book, in the past year. One quarter of our American population is not reading. The majority of these are people above the age of 18 in rural areas. These smiling students can and will make a difference!
The good news is that 76 percent of Americans are reading. Physical books are still being purchased, but so are e-books and audiobooks. Libraries are still being utilized.
One of the greatest influences on my life was illiterate. My paternal grandfather never learned to read. As the oldest of nine and a strapping young man even after surviving polio, he did not attend school. He was expected to help with manual labor. While he may not have had a formal education, he recognized the value of it. He stressed it to his four children and would be proud to know that each of his six grandchildren earned college degrees.
He realized that he was missing out. One of his treasured possessions was the Bible on cassette that my dad and his siblings gave him for Christmas in the 1980s. Until then, he relied on a preacher’s interpretation or my grandmother’s oral reading. He was never able to read, but he recognized the opportunities that the ability to read afforded.
I am thankful for the little reminder of the things that I love, but often take for granted. The past week was stormy in many ways, but a short parade was a great reminder of accomplishments and revelries. It was a bright spot after a week marked by violence and tragedy.
As summer draws near, I hope our communities continue to celebrate happy times and read good books.
Weekly columnist. Feature Writer.