I Wish You Words. . . Happy International Literacy Day

Cloth twisted in my hand. It yielded unlike book covers, even my most treasured and folded texts. Anne of Green Gables, my most frequently read book was moss green. Somehow there was a spill of four dots of white paint, or maybe white out that if they were black would be definitely mistaken for ink by their shape. The checkered texture was smothered in brown stains, as the feathered pages. Every inch exhaled mold. The jacket meant to protect its contents ripped free long ago. One piece from the inner fold remained as a book mark, the words inside detail another book by the same author and the skin peeking out from the pages was rough from time and ripped from multiple folds. See it or smell it, in a time of ever present technological imitations, these were the two images quickly disappearing as a tangible frame on the scenes. Despite this attack on a landscape, the living space of mind was as limited. It was an expanse unforgiving in the beginning, a stiffness that became worn and I saw where I saw myself, I marked it, and maybe on accident, I ripped it. Sewn tight between cardboard or leather covers, I read between the lines.

When adult books don’t take me where I want to go, I turn to children’s books. Since I was a child, I dreamed on not only the stories I read, but on those I wrote. Currently, I am writing as much as I can, mostly a middle grade novel about family, identity, horizons and the consequences of traveling far to see up close.

Even as I write, teaching echoes in the back of my mind too. “Select your scenes,” I read and flash to materials chosen for a science corner or literacy station. “Allow space for movement and reaction.” That would be time made for dialogue not a timed speech, an exchange and not a summary of ideas. “Know what your story is and what it is not. Know who you are and who you are not. The first paragraph should have all the elements of your story.” I read something I underlined in pencil on the workshop handout from the fall. But, a paragraph, the blackness and blankness, its shape and the page it turns on are all stories too. No matter where you live, and no matter where you want to go, on International Literacy Day, I wish you words.

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