Every once in a while an unforgettable little moment unexpectedly unfolds and, in a few short seconds, encapsulates the power of CLiF’s work. Here is one… For the past two years CLiF has been working with families affected by the opioid crisis. Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking to a group of young mothers who were fighting hard to recover from their addiction and to make a better life for them and their children. I was there to teach the women about the vital importance of sharing books and stories with their kids, the powerful impact it has on their child’s development, and ways to share books with children successfully even if one is not a strong or confident reader.
Most of the women had infants or toddlers in their laps or snoozing in baby carriers. After our fun and wide-ranging discussion, I read two books to the children, allowing me to model the techniques we had discussed. When I was done, each mother was able to select two new books for each of her children from a collection of a few hundred titles I had brought with me.
When the presentation was over, I packed up the displays and the remaining books, and was stepping out of the building. At that very moment a young couple in their late 20s was coming in. The man had a 6-year-old girl in his arms, the girl snuggled shyly against his neck. “Oh no!” said the woman. “Did I miss the presentation? Is it too late to get some books?” I said it was not too late at all, and we went back inside the foyer so they could dig through the boxes of new books for their daughter and another infant who was at home.
The woman turned to the man: “I’ve seen this guy here twice before. He’s an amazing storyteller, and we have several of his books at home. They’re great.”
The man said “I know that. You know all those books I used to send you guys at home? They were from him. And you know how when I read stories to the kids and I use voices and ask questions and all that stuff. I learned it from him!”
I said: “Where where you in prison?”
“Concord” he replied. “I saw you a bunch of times there, and loved those presentations, and appreciated being able to send books back home. Those seminars helped a lot, and now I read with our kids all the time.”
It’s hard enough being young parents and raising young kids. But here was a young couple, one of whom had been incarcerated, the other bravely fighting addiction, and they were both united in their desire to help their two kids grow up with a love of books, stories, and literacy. With CLiF’s help, and with the love those parents clearly felt for their kids, those children now have a better chance of following a very different life path. And here at CLiF, that makes all our work worthwhile.