The very first time I had a book read to me was the day I was born. I was reading to myself at age 4. Even today, I'm loathe to leave the house without a book or my Kindle, just in case.
My love of reading and writing is, of course, part of my personality, but it was also something my brother and sister and I were intentionally raised in. Our parents read to us constantly when we were little, and it was a habit that endured as we grew up. My favorite series was Nancy Drew. I'd read under the covers at night with a flashlight, or construct elaborate forts in my room for the express purpose of a new place to read. Whenever we moaned about being bored, my mom's standard response was: "Read a book, write a book, or take a nap."
We grew up just a few blocks away from the elementary school all three of us attended and made frequent trips to the local library (I still have a library card there! You never know...). My parents took turns staying up late and helping us with our homework. I can recall one night my mother and I both ended up in tears at the kitchen table at midnight over one particularly difficult math assignment!
All of this to say, my parents gave us one of the most fantastic gifts I can imagine by teaching us how to love the pursuit of knowledge. Education changed and shaped all of us -- from my brother's discovery of his love of bluegrass music and its history, to my sister's upcoming study abroad trip to Paris, to my years spent at Mount Holyoke, where my eyes were opened to issues of feminism, politics, gender theory, and ever more reading and writing. I treasure still those days (and nights) spent in the seemingly ancient campus library, surrounded by women chasing down answers and sprouting new conversations about important topics just as fervently as I was.
Education aids in the acquisition of important knowledge, of course, but also contributes to those things a little harder to numerate. Confidence. Opportunities. Connections. Relationships. Bravery.
I know how lucky I am that all of this has been part of my life. For so many kids around the world, education can be a path out of poverty. It has a direct impact on well-being, from better health to increased opportunities. Education affords children the knowledge, skills, and confidence they need to shape a better future for themselves.
I'm not sure if you're planning on doing any holiday shopping at mecca IKEA this year, but I wanted to let you know that for every soft toy and children's book sold between November 9, 2014 and January 3, 2015, the IKEA Foundation will donate one euro ($1.30) to children's education through UNICEF and Save the Children. The donations will help UNICEF and Save the Children train teachers in child-friendly teaching methods, improve child protection systems, supply educational materials in the schools, help rebuild schools, provide better water and toilet facilities, and increase school attendance rates. Help the Foundation make a difference in so many young lives!
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.