A columnist of heart and mind

A columnist of heart and mind
Interviewing the animals at Children's Fairyland in Oakland. L-R: Bobo the sheep, Gideon the miniature donkey, me, Tumbleweed Tommy the miniature donkey, Juan the alpaca, Coco the pony

Monday, March 2, 2009

Reading the future

Every year, I look forward to the annual Glenview Elementary School Read-a-thon in Oakland with a mixture of pleasure and sadness.
On the upside, it's a delightful one-day treat for the kids, when they put aside their regular schoolwork and do nothing but read for sheer pleasure.
Some of the little ones come to school in their pajamas, toting sleeping bags and their favorite stuffed animals.
Using blankets and chairs, they make "forts" in the middle of the classroom, drag their sleeping bags inside, and read to their heart's content. It's beyond cute.
And as an extra treat, local celebrities, including Oakland firefighters and Cal basketball players, are on hand to read aloud to them.
The Read-a-thon is preceded by a two-week fundraising drive conducted by the Glenview PTA. The kids fan out through the neighborhood, raising money to pay for essentials that have been cut from the school's budget.
These include such basics as pencils and paper, which the teachers otherwise would have to pay for out of their own pockets, as well as library books, an onsite school counselor and a playground supervisor.
Every effort is expended to make the drive fun and safe for the kids, but what makes me sad is that the drive is necessary. These children have to go begging door-to-door for things that were taken for granted when I was their age.
When we're talking about infrastructure, what could be more crucial to our future than the next generation? They're even more important than bridges, roads and electrical grids. Without them, we have nothing.
And they can't wait until next year, or even next month, for our political leaders to get their act together. Every day they spend not being challenged to do their very best is a day lost forever. And those days add up awfully quickly.
The need is greater than ever this year because of the economic crunch. Last fall, the PTA wisely set aside a $10,000 contingency fund in case an emergency cropped up; and sure enough, it happened.
Halfway through the school year, the money ran out for the school's performing arts programs. Without the contingency fund, there would have been no more dance, chorus or drama programs for the rest of the year.
Glenview is far from the poorest school in Oakland. It isn't as rich as some of the schools higher up the hill, which can raise more in one night at an auction than Glenview can raise all year. But at least it has good neighbors.
Like Richard Wee, owner of Ultimate Grounds Cafe, who is giving away free coffee on Saturday to everyone who donates a book to the school library. And Debbie Long, owner of Glenview Lock & Key, and Omar Korin, owner of Savemore Market, neither of whom have kids at Glenview but donate anyway because they know how important the school is.
"The schools I really worry about are the ones in the flatlands, where they don't even have the resources that we have," says PTA mom Pamela Fong.
The fundraising drive started on Wednesday and will culminate with the Read-a-thon on March 19. If you live in the Glenview district, be on the lookout for some adorable moppets who will be knocking on your door soon.
And if you don't live nearby, your own local school probably needs help just as badly. Give them a call and ask how you can help.


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