Books for chidren, or random acts of literacy
How many commuters in the Philadelphia area believe our children should read more? During an afternoon commute home from University City, I developed an idea to help children throughout our city access books.
Driving in on I-76 can be a monotonous, draining experience at 6:30 a.m. The blink of the stoplights, the rising sun in your face, and the coffee spilling while you brake. It is lonely and can be enough to drive you crazy. My solution was to start taking the train. I am living a greener, happier life, and it even costs less.
One day during my new commute, I was riding in the seat behind a cute kid.
He was playful and smiling as he tumbled and grunted in his seat. His mother was taking care of him, trying to study for class, and riding home from a long day at work. His playfulness reminded me of my own sons when they were younger, and his actions reminded me of a story I used to read to them, “How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night?” by author Jane Yolen and illustrator Mark Teague.
He reminded me of a dinosaur from the book, and I was sure he would like the story just as much as my own children. I mentioned to his mother that I might have an extra copy of the book at home, and that I would put it in my bag in case I saw them again. A few weeks later, I had the chance to deliver the book and the boy was elated. He smiled and grabbed the book immediately. A few weeks later, I found out that the boy requests the book every night.
When I got home I told my wife what happened and how I could carry excess books in my bag each day to give to other children. We gathered a bin full that our children had outgrown. Luckily, my wife was also involved in a children’s sale at a local church the following weekend. The other organizers agreed to let me have any of the books that were not purchased.
I have been using that pile of books for a few months now. I usually keep three or four books in my bag on any given day. I have been able to quietly, politely, and efficiently deliver the books to any toddler or child on the train since then.
I say very little as I offer the book, and have not had anyone turn me down yet. I enjoy doing it so much that I created a website to get the word out. I thought that if every teacher in the city could duplicate my mission, if only once a year, that would be over 17,000 books in children’s hands.
My entrepreneurial spirit kicked in, and I tried to envision every commuter having an extra book with them. Imagine a Philadelphia Federation of Teachers or School District-sponsored event each year that placed stands in transportation centers to distribute books. Imagine kids being introduced to reading through a “Random Act of Literacy.”
My goal is to get books into kids' hands during a part of the day where they are sitting idle on a train, bus, car, or other vehicle and they need to expand their imagination.
It is a simple idea.
Every professional in the city should carry an extra book to distribute to a child at random. It is better than candy, cleaner than finger paints. It is portable and does not need batteries. And it can ignite a child’s imagination like nothing else. When I contacted the author of the book that started it all, she replied, “Neat idea,” and posted a note about the project on Facebook.
Get behind this idea and start handing out books today!
Harvey Scribner is a third-year teacher at The Promise Academy at University City High School. He is the Technology Teacher Leader and a business/technology teacher. Before teaching, he served on deployment with the PA National Guard and retired with more than 20 years of military service. He entered education through Troops To Teachers. Prior to teaching, he designed kitchens and built a career in sales and marketing in and around Philadelphia. Scribner is a husband, father, soldier, teacher, coach, scout leader, and active in his church. He grew up in the Upper Perkiomen School District and currently resides in Trooper, PA.
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