When I was growing up, I loved reading. As a child, reading books that expanded my imagination was the only way I could travel to the distant lands found in the pages. Reading was also one of the few guilty pleasures that my family could afford.
I did not own a single book as a child. My family was very poor, and a book to us was a luxury. My small community did not have a library. The two communities bordering my town did not have a library. Not even my schools had a library.
The nearest library to my home was miles away.
However, having to walk miles to get to a library, did not diminish my love for reading. It just made it hard to get books. Every Saturday I would get up early, finish all my chores, seek my parents’ permission, and set off in the boiling sun to get to the library in a town called Gayle.
I would skip on my way to the library; simply thinking of the possibility of getting a new book to read, brought me unbridled joy. Our communities had very little vehicular traffic, so on my way back, I would delve into reading a new book, and would suddenly be transported to a new place, and a new adventure.
I loved Nancy Drew, and The Hardy Boys, but I really came alive while reading Louis L’Amour novels, which my dad allowed me to borrow even at a young age. Today, I am a voracious reader in no small part because of my dad. Now, watching my kids curl up with a blanket and a good book fills me with immense delight. The tradition of strong readers is alive in the next generation of my family.
A DREAM COME THROUGH
There are many ways to help our kids to thrive, and be strong learners. However, kids born into poverty are still unable to have even their basic needs met, and for many, books are still a rare sight.
When my hubby and I - his story is similar to mine - visit the places we grew up, we realize very little has changed. None of the schools we attended have a library, and neither do the communities.
We decided we have to change that!
We believe strongly in the value of education. With proper education, the cycle of poverty will begin to diminish. We also believe in providing as much access to books for kids to help them learn. We have seen - and the research supports it - how strong readers become strong learners, great students, and productive members of their communities.
Reading Owls International was "born" out of a desire to give back to our communities by helping to start or supplement existing libraries in Jamaica. Every child can read, and should be afforded the opportunity.
One of our kids wanted this reading project to be about enabling kids to be super, duper readers. Our children are huge fantasy readers, and love mythology. They told us that in both Greek and Roman mythology, the goddess of wisdom and intellect is symbolized by an owl.
It is our hope that we can raise up a generation of readers, and thinkers - Reading Owls. It is a journey and it promises to be a wild ride.