I was born in Seattle in the 1960's but left for the small island of Taiwan at age 4, just as I was learning English. When I returned several years later, I could only speak two words in English: yes & no.
I had few reading skills.
Elementary school in Seattle was a disaster for me. English as a Second Language (ESL) wasn't around yet and late English language learners like me didn't fit in. Being the only Asian in my class meant the playground was brutal.
I struggled. I floundered. I lost interest as my classmates progressed and left me behind.
I rebelled. My grades plummeted. Eventhough both my parents were college professors,
I was an "at-risk" youth !!
My parents enrolled me into a top tier private school with small class sizes and high expectations. It was here, at the Lakeside School, where I met the first of many teachers that really cared about me: Mr. Doug Thiel. He recognized my potential and recommended I see Ms. Margaret Mann, a speech pathologist and English tutor. She forever changed my life. She worked with me for 2 long years and brought my language skills back up to speed.
After 8 years at Lakeside and 4 years at the University of Washington, I graduated and soon after, became a police officer. For the next 27 years I saw countless households with "at-risk" youth. Assigned to the SWAT team for 11 years and another 9 years in investigations opened even more doors into stranger's homes.
In these houses, apartments and trailers, I stepped over, and stepped on, a lot of things. There was one thing I never remember stepping over in these impoverished and less fortunate homes. I never stepped over a children's book.
These homes were book deserts and they produced what is euphemistically called "at-risk" youth. The parents didn't read books. The children didn't read books. The family culture was devoid of the printed word and these kids ultimately struggled in school.
Now that I'm retired, I want to change that.
Chapter 2 Chapter is my effort to help and make a difference on the front end of these children's lives. I want to ensure that all children have the resources to become functionally literate and to read at, or above, grade level by the time they reach 3rd grade so they are more likely to succeed in school.
If Chapter 2 Chapter is successful helping youth literacy then our second "chapter" will be to help the men & women in our prison system gain literacy skills so they can become functionally literate. Adult illiteracy is the single largest commonality in our prison populations.
Over 80% only read at the 4th grade level. Recidivism is dramatically lower for those that improve their reading skills and earn their GED's during their time in prison.
Help me help our less fortunate children.
Support me now so that in the future, I can help our incarcerated population in the hopes that they can be productive citizens.
Donate to Chapter 2 Chapter.
I have been immersed in books since day one. My house was full of books, and my parents would read to my sister and I every night - usually three or four books. I was always in love with literature. I loved, and still do love, to read. I love being able to live in my mind for a while, to become enraptured with the story and characters, drawn into the pages.
As a child, whenever I was injured or upset and crying I would cry, "Read a book! Read a book! Read a book!" As the spoken word flowed off the pages the words distracted me from my pain and discomfort and whisked me away into a world of my own imagination.
Reading was my way to escape for a bit, relax, and to imagine. I never realized, until around first grade, that a lot of kids never had that opportunity, and it had a negative impact on their lives.
Reading was easy for me when I started first grade; I was frustrated when the teachers wouldn’t let me read past a certain level, even though I was ready. They ended up giving me advanced vocabulary words to keep me entertained. I did well in school, but a lot of other kids didn’t, and most of them also struggled in reading assignments.
They had trouble reading rudimentary stories and became frustrated easily. One classmate could barely read at all. He became more irritable as the year went on, and he slipped behind even further. Just last year I saw him again - he was held back and is now a grade below me. He wasn’t unintelligent or unthinking, he just lacked solid reading skills.
It wasn’t, and isn’t, fair. There are a lot of children like him. They’re smart, they have potential, but they don’t have the opportunity to excel. Not only is literacy a necessary skill to succeed in school, it is also important in developing other skills
(e.g. a logical thought process, task completion, linear communication, speaking, concentration).
Literacy builds a strong foundation for success in the rest of your life, and that’s why I am a part of Chapter 2 Chapter - because I believe that everyone deserves an even opportunity to succeed.
From day one, I have been surrounded by books. Before I could walk or talk, I was read to by my parents and grandparents. Every night they would sit on the edge of one of our beds and read to my sister and I. We listened attentively, taking it all in like little sponges and begging for them to read another book and another.
Once I was old enough to read, I would lay in bed with my mom or my dad and we would take turns reading chapters out of whatever book I was interested in at the time (usually it was some type of horse book). I loved those moments and still consider them some of my best memories.
Looking back I realize how fortunate I am to have those strong familial ties and scholastic base that both stemmed from early reading.
Unfortunately not all children are exposed to early reading like I was. Once kindergarten started, I began to see some of my friends struggle. It became a continuous battle for them to just catch up with the rest of the class.
There were a few who found reading exceptionally difficult. As the years went on they fell farther and farther behind. At some point along the way, each of them went off to an alternative school to try and catch up. But even now, in high school, they are still desperately trying to keep their grades up.
Even though I know it isn’t my fault, I feel guilty because I know that it probably would only have taken a parent and a couple of children’s books each night to avoid a lot of their stress in school.
So much potential is unleashed when a child is exposed to books at a young age, so many doors open. The more they read, the better their writing gets as well as their ability to communicate their thoughts to others. That is why I believe every child should have equal access to books, so they can have a happier and more successful life.