By Krista Schwimmer
Some of my fondest memories of my early, child- hood years are of my parents reading to me and my brothers before bedtime. One such book was “Are You My Mother,” by P.D. Eastman, about a lost, little bird. My mother read this book to me so frequently that I surprised her one day at the age of four by apparently reading it to her. I had simply memorized it.
Imagine now that you are in a home where there is not a single book. No fairy tales to hear as you drift asleep; no shared memories of reading with any par- ent. Sadly, in California, this is too often the picture. Ranked 48th in childhood literacy, California is in dire need of help. Fortunately, three organizations are pre- pared to send in some troops: Raising A Reader, Sun- set Lodge #369 Free & Accepted Masons, and the Mystic Journey Bookstore. Armed with books, knowl- edge, and heart, they are ready to show the community how we can not only face this situation, but ultimately solve it.
On Saturday, June 1st, from 1 – 4 pm, Sunset Ma- sonic Lodge and the Mystic Journey Bookstore are proud to present Family Literary Day. The event will be held at the lodge, located on 1720 Ocean Park Boulevard in Santa Monica. This free event will bring awareness to the amazing, national, literacy program called Raising A Reader. The day will include a book swap; a creative arts station; a model train display by Group 160; and a celebrity panel, discussing the issue of child literacy and children’s literature. The panel will include the local Venetian author and actor, Paul Michael Glaser.
In 1999, Raising A Reader was created to help lower income families of children aged 0 to 8 years old “develop, practice and maintain home-based liter- acy routines critical for school success.” They do this
in a simple, effective way: by providing low-income families with free books to take home. Having already helped over one million children, this group’s thirty years of research shows that children do better in school when the family is involved in their activities. The most successful activity is that of families reading books together.
Historically, Masons have championed public education. Just in California, they have lobbied for state-supported education and federal land grants; helped create a free system of public education; and created Public Schools Week. In the last four years, the California Masonic foundation has provided more than $5 million in educational scholarships and serv- ices to children.
Each year, the incoming Grand Master of Masons in California chooses a charity to support. For not only this year, but the next three years, the Grand Lodge has chosen to support Raising A Reader. Along with donating funds to the organization, the goal is to pro- vide the Raising A Reader program to 250 California kindergarten classrooms in the lowest performing schools, reaching an estimated 6,000 children at risk.
Locally, to support the Grand Lodge’s project, Sunset Masonic Lodge, in coordination with The Mys- tic Journey Bookstore, has created Family Literacy Day. This diverse and dynamic lodge has served the Venice Beach, Santa Monica, West L.A., and sur- rounding areas for more than a century. For this event, they reached out to the West Los Angeles area, starting with Will Rogers Elementary and Grant Elementary Schools. Ironically, although Raising A Reader was founded in Redwood Shores, California, the West Los Angeles region has been untouched until now.
The Mystic Journey Bookstore, founded in Octo- ber 2008 by Jeffrey Segal, joins Sunset Masonic
Lodge in their efforts. The metaphysical bookstore is located at 1624 Abbot Kinney Boulevard. Its mission is not only “to spread light and love, to enlighten and enliven, to intrigue and inspire,” but to “become a leader in our community.” The two organizations plan on promoting other charitable events together in the future.
Victor Hugo writes that “to learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out a spark.” Please join Raising A Reader, Sunset Masonic Lodge #369, and the Mystic Journey Bookstore on June 1st in lighting a fire for children in California, one spark at a time.
For further information about or to donate chil- dren’s books for “Family Literacy Day,” please contact John Stellar at 800-858-2712 or firstname.lastname@example.org To learn more about the other organizations, please visit these websites: Sunset Lodge #369 F&AM, http://www.sunsetmasoniclodge.org; The Mystic Journey Bookstore, http://www.mysticjourneybookstore.com