This morning, I participated in the Real Men Read event as part of Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer’s Give a Day volunteer project. I was assigned an elementary school near my apartment to read Hewitt Anderson’s Great Big Life for a group of third-graders. For some reason, despite my developing laryngitis and the two sharp-dressed men who also volunteered, the principal assigned me to read in the library for the largest group of students.
My voice made it through the entire book, but more incredibly, all of the children were completely attentive and respectful the entire time. At first, I thought the kids mistakenly assumed I was a local celebrity (probably true). I then realized, however, that the school employed no male teachers aside from the principal.
And considering the state of fatherhood (and literacy) in today’s age, this may have been the first time a man read a story to some of these children. I walked into that school with a geeky excitement that I was volunteering as a reader, but left with a sobering reminder that real men do read, and they teach children of its lasting value.
Deadbeat fathers and idle mothers who never open a book in leisure or read to their children at night will root out and destroy the seeds of learning, especially reading.
These reminders bother and burden me to a great degree. My parents read to me so often as a child, that I can hardly remember a time in my elementary years when they neglected this task. I so treasured these moments that one of the most delightful nights of my childhood was when my father read Tarzan and the Lost Safari to me and my friends at a sleepover. Sure, he read these books to me each night, but now my closest friends had the opportunity to hear this jungle adventure read aloud.
If I could use 10 words to describe myself, bibliophile and bookworm would be among them, the redundancy best explained by how reading has permeated my life and habits. I owe to my parents not just the ability to read before I started school but all of my academic and professional accomplishments achieved because of a high proficiency in reading and writing.
Literacy can be taught in the classroom, but a love for literature can only be exemplified in the home.