Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Stepping Up

Today I had a meeting with our pilot school, Monroe Elementary, to discuss our Family Literacy Night event coming up in November.  This project for our charity, From Cover to Cover, has become my fifth baby.  I truly cannot tell you how important it is for our communities to realize how much these kids need us.  Not just the Monroe students.  The children at-risk in communities nationwide.  I have found my purpose.  Raising awareness about the striking correlation between literacy and poverty and doing something about it.

Proficient literacy skills are a one-way ticket out of the generational poverty many of these children come from.  It may seem like a daunting task, but it is quite possible to help some of these kids break free.  This is why we have expanded our project to include sponsored literacy nights.  It is why, each day, we spend time working to raise funds, gather volunteers, and make important community connections to spread the word about this huge need that lies right in our own neighborhoods.

What do these children need?  Books.  They need home libraries.  How can you further develop your reading skills if you have nothing to read at home?  Having fewer than 25 printed materials at home is considered living below the poverty level.  This is the biggest area I feel so many of us take for granted.  Our children are abundantly blessed.  Most of us have at least 25 books lying on a table or a book shelf in our living rooms.  Combine that with those found in bedrooms, play rooms, and diaper bags and I am sure most of us are well into the hundreds.  Could you imagine not having a single book for your child to read?  It is a shame, yet a reality for so many.

What do these families need?  They need to be empowered.  If a parent cannot read themselves, that does not mean they cannot help their child to become a better reader.  We are going to work with all of the parents and guardians that come to our events and teach them strategies they can use, regardless of ability, while reading with their children.  We are going to share the importance of reading together each night and walk them through how to ask questions and utilize pictures to further develop the skills of their child.

What do these schools need?  They need volunteers.  More specifically, volunteer readers.  There are many mentoring programs that do not require a significant amount of your time, yet they can make a huge difference in the life of a child.  The more these children are surrounded by people encouraging them to read and reading with them, the more confidence they will build and, in turn, their desire to read will increase.  They also need books.  Quality, engaging, interesting books.  We want kids to look at their classroom libraries and be excited about reading.  Old, worn, outdated books just don't illicit the same amount of excitement as new(er), colorful, eye-catching books.

I challenge all of you to find a local school in your community and help them fulfill one of these needs.  If you live in the QC, I encourage you to join us in our mission.  When I drove away from the school today and passed the lines at the shelters and soup kitchens, it really hit me how important our efforts truly are.  We know we aren't going to save the world, but if we can change the world for a handful of kids, we have made a difference.  You can make a difference, too.  The question is, will you step forward and try?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Letting Go

"Busy."  This seems to be the word most of us use to describe our lives.  As a society we seem to wear our busyness with pride, but have we paused a moment to really examine what is truly making us so "busy?"  Are these busy lives we are creating for ourselves and our families truly something to be proud of?  We complain about how we don't have any time for homework, how we don't have time to cook and have a family meal, how we don't have time to...the list goes on.   Our kids attend school all day, we pick them up and begin the evening rush, putting the very things we complain about not having time for on the back-burner.  

As parents, we have been entrusted with the responsibility of shaping the next generation.  Impressionable eyes are watching us.  Little ears are listening.  These children are looking to us for guidance and it is our job to lead by example.  What are we teaching our children by being so busy we don't have time to eat as a family?  How are we teaching them to value education and be responsible when their homework is finished as they're running out the door because we were running from activity to activity the night before?  How are we teaching them to be grateful for their blessings and serve others in their community when we are too busy to volunteer ourselves?  The hard truth? We're not.

The buzz on the street is we're raising an entitled generation of kids.  While it's hard to hear, can many of you disagree?  We have succumbed to the idea that our kids' happiness is measured by all of the "stuff" we provide for them.  Activities, play dates, material items, the latest and greatest technology...ugh, the list goes on and on.  They get what they want and then they ask for more.  They are searching for a feeling of satisfaction that will never come because there will always be something better behind the next door.  Oh, America, what are we doing?

It is time to take a step back and truly evaluate our lives.  If you are too busy for homework, family dinners, and nightly reading then perhaps it is time to make a change.  Our children are depending on us to set limits and create a home environment that isn't so busy.  Sure, it may be hard to say no to whatever it is they are "dying" to do next, but in the end, after the tears have dried and the tantrum has ceased, how refreshing will it feel to not be so overwhelmed and, you got it, busy?  Let go of the guilt.  There is no disservice in saying no.  In time your children will thank you.  

I have always found that serving others leaves me feeling much more satisfied than any material item ever could.  This is the feeling I want my children to experience:  to realize that it is so much more fulfilling to give than to receive.  It is my hope that by example I am teaching them to make time for others, to realize life isn't always about them.  I want them to understand that as a family we are not too busy to serve.

My eyes have been opened in the past year.  While there are many, many people so willing to give of their time and talents, there are so many more who are simply too busy.  So many programs rely on volunteers to fulfill their mission and sadly those programs will cease to exist if no one steps up.  Everyone has been blessed with talent.  It would be a shame to not use this gift to help others, be it your school community, local homeless shelter, youth program, you name it.  You never how your contribution, whether big or small, may change the course of someone else's life. There is an opportunity awaiting everyone.  Let's all band together, get a little less busy, and teach our children well.  Make an impression that will last and not be lost on those little eyes and ears.

We all given the same amount of time each week.  It is up to us what we do with it.