05 March 2013

About a year ago, some friends and I started a book club. I’ve been in and out of them for probably 20 years and I wanted to begin a new one to force me to read at least one non-work related book a month.

It’s tough to gather people together given everyone’s very busy schedules, much less find the time to read the book, especially if it’s more than 100 pages, and doesn’t come with pictures and large print. Just kidding about the last part, but there have been times when I’ve held the book in my hand (I’m old school like that, though I now have a Kindle), leafed through how many pages it is and felt a sense of dread since I inevitably wait until the last minute to start.  

We rotate picking books and the best part is reading a selection that I would never have chosen on my own. For example, last month’s book was 1997's “The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down” by Anne Fadiman.  The National Book Critics' Circle Award winner is about a Hmong child with epilepsy in Merced, Calif., a conclave for Hmong following their exile from Laos. The book explores the culture clash between the Hmong way of treatment (all ailments are spiritual) and western medicine, which narrowly focuses on the illness and not the holistic picture.  The print is small and the book is dense and it turned out to be one of the most fascinating books I’ve ever read. There are no villains, only people with good intentions, and yet, as we know, those can wreak just as much havoc as those who deliberately do damage. The subject of the book, Lia, died last year at 30.

I’m about to finish this month’s pick, “The Fault Is In Our Stars” and I’m grabbing the kleenex. It’s technically a Young Adult novel, but I sure wasn’t reading stuff like that when I was 14. 

One of my favorite people in the book club is a woman named Dalet, who is such a voracious reader that she’s usually already read any book that we pick. I don’t know where she finds the time because her life is very full, yet she makes reading a priority because it nourishes her soul and imagination. She knows that reading a great book takes you to places that you can’t go otherwise, even with a passport. It inspires you and widens your world view, even if you never leave your living room. No matter what your economic or social status, we all take off on the same adventure when we hold a book in our hands. 

To quote Dr. Suess, whose birthday many schools are celebrating this week, "Oh, the places you'll go!"

Dalet volunteers with Reading to Kids, an organization dedicated to instilling a love of reading in underserved kids.  On the second Saturday of every month, nearly 800 kids and 340 volunteers gather to read at seven Los Angeles elementary schools. But Reading to Kids’ outreach extends far beyond those children: according to its website, in its 14 years, Reading to Kids has donated more than 20,000 books to school libraries and given more than 113,000 books to children who take part in the reading clubs. 

So this Chooseday Tuesday’s $10 goes to Reading to Kids. I’m going to look into volunteering with them and will let you know what happens. They need volunteers for this Saturday. In the meantime, I have a book to finish. 

March 5: Reading to Kids

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