When my niece Abby was a toddler, she lived in Langley while I lived in Courtenay—a several hours’ drive and a ferry boat ride away. Abby loved to “read” books, and to sit down with me and have me read stories to her whenever we were together.
When we weren’t together, I would call her and read to her over the telephone. Her favourites were Dora the Explorer stories—especially ‘Happy Birthday, Mami!’ about a birthday cake made of bananas, nuts and chocolate. There were seven stories in the Dora treasury I owned, but I read the birthday cake story so many times that I still remember the ingredients to that cake.
If you are familiar with Dora stories, you know she has a monkey friend named Boots, and there is a thieving fox named Swiper. Each story is an adventure, with a backpack, map and three stops along the way. Even though we couldn’t see each other, my sister would tell me that Abby was acting out parts of the story while holding the telephone up to one ear.
I still own the book, even though Abby graduated from high school in 2019 and now lives all the way across the country in Nova Scotia. We now communicate via text, Instagram and occasionally Zoom.
Abby says she still reads, although mostly for school. Her latest book purchase was Stephenie Meyer’s Midnight Sun, the new novel in the Twilight Saga (I haven’t read it yet).
Sixteen years ago I was reading stories about Mami, and now I am one. We usually go to Saguenay, Quebec at this time of year to visit our grandchildren and their parents. The boys are four and two years old this year, and call me Mami Susie. Thanks to COVID-19, we will be visiting them virtually via FaceTime. Ayden and Tyler both love books, and their folks have amassed an impressive library for them already. Because my husband’s family is from Quebec, the boys are growing up knowing both French and English—Ayden has recently begun to read a few words, even though he won’t turn five for a few months.
We only see them once a year, so it takes Ayden a while to warm up to us when we get there—especially me, because I only speak a little bit of French. He loves his books, and loves reading with someone. Reading to him is challenging when he chooses a French book: challenging for me and highly amusing for him.
(Let’s just say my French vocabulary is such that once he reaches about Grade 3, he will surpass me completely.)
Reading has always been a pleasure for me, and I’ve made a living out of both reading and writing. They are vital skills to have. I also have people close to me for whom reading and writing do not come easily, and they have had to struggle for each written word. I have a lot of respect for them.
Literacy is important to me. In 2014 I earned the Peter Gzowski Life Literacy Fellowship from ABC Life Literacy Canada, and wrote a series of stories about adult literacy. It was the beginning of a learning experience for me.
This week is Raise a Reader week in British Columbia, and Wednesday, Sept. 23 Literacy Alberni is celebrating with their Raise a Reader day. I am grateful to have been raised a reader.
— Susie Quinn is the Alberni Valley News editor