Thursday, Apr 19, 2018
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Op-Ed Columns

Teen turns page on new chapter for self, others

It's not easy for everybody. Reading, as the saying goes, is fundamental, but fundamental isn't always fun. For a lot of people, especially guys my age, "book" and "good time" are never in the same sentence.

I didn't take to reading right away. As an elementary school student in Springfield Township, it was one of my biggest problems. I moved to Atlanta at age 9, but things didn't get any better.

I attended a public school there before I transferred to an academy that had a superior academic ranking. But because of reading problems, I felt inferior.

I understood the words and how to pronounce them; comprehension was my problem. I could get through every sentence on the page, but what good did it do when I couldn't explain what I'd just read?

I got frustrated and embarrassed. Pretty soon, this one thing I wasn't good at had me feeling that the whole world would be against me. If it hadn't been for my tutor and my mom, who worked with me at home by giving me magazine articles to study and summarize, I don't know how I would have ever gotten better.

Getting better was a reward. When my comprehension improved, I found out that books had a lot to offer me, even outside the classroom. I could look back through history in The Autobiography of Malcolm X, or pass the time on a plane ride with Barack Obama speaking from a page. I found a new world.

But something else happened in Atlanta around that time: Riding past low-income housing, I saw other boys and girls who didn't have much. I wondered whether they had books. Did they know what I knew about how much fun reading could be?

That was the day I came up with Books 4 Buddies (B4B). With help from my grandmother, Laneta Goings, I planned a program to give books of all kinds to kids who might have never owned a book before.

My mom and I moved back to Ohio. In January, my family started putting together the B4B blueprint for 2012. With help from The Blade, the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, Toledo Public Schools, Cumulus Media, and WTVG-TV, Channel 13, we launched our first book collection at Westfield Franklin Park mall last weekend.

This year, B4B is focusing on boys. But girls can also pick up books at any distribution site listed on the Books 4 Buddies Facebook page.

Here's one reason we really want to help young men: A survey called "Literacy Skills for the World of Tomorrow" showed that 56 percent of boys around the world said they read only when they need information.

Half the girls in the survey said they read for at least a half hour every day. Girls pick up more books just to enjoy reading. Because the research is a few years old, I'll bet even more guys today play video games and sports and watch TV rather than read.

I wanted to start a reading program because I don't want anybody else to feel embarrassed, like I did. Reading is a great benefit that makes public speaking much easier. Reading promotes a wider range and greater understanding of interests.

Reading spurs creative, thought-provoking ideas. If trouble with reading keeps you from enjoying it, B4B is recruiting tutors who will help.

I'll never forget what it felt like to have books in front of me that I couldn't understand. But I'll always remember how great it felt when I started understanding them.

L. Toure McCord II, 14, is founder of Books 4 Buddies. To volunteer as a tutor or donate to the program, call 1-866-944-1119.

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