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Small Wonders: Finding worlds within a good book

March 11, 2011

A leader of our community. You heard it right. A leader of our community. That’s what they call me.

I spew 800 words of whimsy, wit and wisdom — OK, maybe the first two — once a week in the local newspaper, and they bestow this title upon me.

And I’m not just looking for a reason to use the word “bestow.”

You know who else is a leader of our community?

A police officer. A dance instructor. A junior high school principal. An animal control officer. A pirate. And a ninja.

And what does this title get us? Not a key to the city, a ribbon-cutting at the Americana at Brand expansion or a six-figure salary for non-attendance at fictitious city board meetings. No, it gets you something much more valuable.

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You get to read from your favorite childhood book to a classroom of elementary school students.

Along with the aforementioned dignitaries, I was asked by the Glenoaks Elementary School PTA to share what I do with a roomful of eager young minds at Guess Who's Coming to Read Day last Friday. I would tell them how reading has been an essential part of reaching my personal and career goals.

The program, a part of Read Across America Week, encourages literacy and learning by establishing role models for students from within our community.

Apparently, they didn't do their homework. They could have checked with Mrs. Grossman, my sixth-grade teacher when I went to Glenoaks 31 years ago. She's still there — in the same classroom — and could have told them reading was not my strong suit back then. Running the projector, making Elmer's Glue balls and wiping my nose on my sleeve, yes. Reading, no.

The first thing I noticed upon arrival was that I was overdressed. The policeman, pirate, ninja and animal control officer all came in uniform. The latter even brought a pet opossum. Had I known I was supposed to come in uniform, I would have worn a dirty T-shirt, baggy jeans and grungy running shoes like any good writer. I did bring a four-day-old growth of beard, but nobody wanted to pet it.

The second thing I noticed was the woefully insufficient selection in the school's library. No “Tropic of Cancer” or “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.” No Anaïs Nin or Tolstoy. And the only copy of “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” had been checked out by an earnest third-grader. Good luck with that, kid.

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