By Nancy Kelly
This year, approximately 1,200 Junior League of Austin members will complete a staggering 100,000 volunteer hours for over 30 local community projects. One of those programs is BookSpring. I am one of the ten JLA members who are lucky enough to be spending their year working with BookSpring. For the 2016-2017 year, the Junior League of Austin is also donating $16,250 to BookSpring to help support the important mission of this program: providing reading experiences, tools, and books to children and their families so they can develop a desire to read and succeed in school and life.
When I found out I was placed with BookSpring, I was eager and motivated. Reading for pleasure has been a mainstay in my life since elementary school, largely because of my parents and amazing teachers. The adults in my young life made reading exciting and also rewarding. This included goal-oriented programs through school. In those programs, I witnessed some of my classmates, who weren’t always as likely to read for fun, rise to the challenge and enjoy a healthy competition. We all wanted bragging rights for who read the most books in our class and united to win as the class with the highest number of books read.
Regardless of competition, my mom and dad made sure that we always had books in our home that interested me. As soon as I finished my homework, I went straight to whichever book I was currently absorbed. Sometimes it was a story from the Sweet Valley High series, others a guide on rocks and minerals that I randomly found on the shelves of the library.
I read everywhere. On the way home from dinner at my grandparents’ house, I would read in the car with my book light. I read in bed. I read at the beach each weekend. I always had a book with me. Books were easily accessible either through the local library or the bookstore where my parents graciously let me choose a new book often. I was fortunate for that last part.
For some children in the Austin area, programs like BookSpring may be the only way that child gets a book to take home forever. And that’s why I believe in the absolute necessity of this project and why I’m so lucky to have been chosen to participate in it. Some of my best memories of childhood are of my parents reading to me at bedtime. The book that an Austin area child selects at a BookSpring event can become one of their fondest childhood memories, just like mine. The best part of my day is reading to my own children. It’s a time for us to bond over books we’ve read many times and love. It’s a time for us to laugh as we act out a silly story. It’s a time for us to learn something new together.
“You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be–
I had a Mother who read to me.”
The Reading Mother
By Strickland Gillilan