Thursday, August 09, 2007

Books, Literacy and Turning Around Lives

For many years I've done a pretty good job of living two separate lives. Yep, I've kept my writing life and my professional career quite separate -- even though in many ways they are closely related. Using a pen name for my writing has made that quite easy to do. I had, and still have, several reasons for doing that.

This week, however, I experienced a small closing of that gap, a gentle merging of the two.

I've worked in education for 28 years. I know and have experienced, the importance of a good education, supplemental educational programs, and the power of being literate. Being literate, the simple act of being able to read, is not necessarily so simple for many Americans. And for many, many children in this country -- a country that boasts of free and compulsory education -- the simple opportunity to go to school is not there, and is anything but simple.

Several years ago my work in education started focusing on literacy issues for children and adults in this country, for families. My work for the past 5 years has been targeted toward supporting literacy in families on American Indian reservations. Literacy levels are low, children often come to school not ready to learn, and by late elementary school many are already in trouble, and by high school way too many children have no high school to go to. This is exactly the situation I worked in the past week.

I'm getting ready to leave this morning from working in a school on a southern Arizona reservation where I, along with two of my colleagues, worked along side a team of energetic young adults from an organization called Better World Books. It was a service project for BWB and I was very happy to be able to shed some small light for them about working within American Indian populations, share some situations, and introduce them to staff at the school. The team worked hard to ready the school for children.

BWB operates on the premise that books make better worlds, and they use the power of books to create funding for many, many literacy programs. In a nut shell, they acquire used books and put them to good use -- send them to places where they will be used, such as Africa, build libraries, repair and rebuild libraries such as post-Katrina New Orleans, sell the used books to provide funding for non-profit literacy organizations -- yes, such as the one I work for.

And it is very much an effort I support. And yes, some of my backlist used books are currently in their warehouse for sale. And yes, I do support the sale of my used books to support the literacy cause.

There is a huge debate amoung authors about the sale of used books. I've never quite jumped on that bandwagon. It is my belief that if someone picks up a used book of mine, likes my writing style, that perhaps I've gained a new reader -- one who may decide to pick up my next book new. Now, because I know there is an organization that could put my used books to good use, for a cause that is so very close to my life, I wholeheartedly support.

I'm just touching on this issue today. I'm sure it will be one that I touch on more frequently as I contemplate how I, as an author, can give back to others who are learning to read, striving to become literate in today's world.

That very distinct line I've drawn between my professional career and my writing life is slowly becoming a fine line, and beginning to dissolve.

maddie
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