The old saying is that March comes in like a lion. If my drive in this morning and the view out of my office window is any indicator, it seems we have an angry lion on our hands.
This is Read Across America week. I had an opportunity to read to our youngest children and chose one of my favorites from Dr. Seuss, “To Think I Saw It on Mulberry Street” and have been asked to read again today. Some Schools have a small period of time across every week called “Drop Everything and Read.” It’s pure reading for enjoyment. It was during reading times such as this that I was exposed to Robin Hood, King Arthur and Treasure Island just to name a few. The themes have changed over the years, but the object, reading for enjoyment has remained. Reading to and with our children is something we should all be doing, not just one week, but across the year. I encourage parents of young children to read to them every day. If you have children of reading age, when you sit with them, don’t insist that they can read every word and don’t correct them. Read to them, ask questions such as, “How do you think (the character) feels”; “what do you think will happen next?” The important thing is to encourage a love of reading. Oh and you get to spend quality time with your child.
We all know that our nation has been convulsed by the recent incident in Florida, which has only made many people relive prior incidents. On one level I want to assure you we are doing all we can to protect our children. Last week we met with Chief Harris and reviewed our security measures and while they appear to be strong, we are actively looking at ways to improve things. Of course the greatest deterrent is vigilance. Although on much bigger stage, I am reminded of the words of John F. Kennedy, himself a victim of mindless violence, “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” The eyes and ears of our parents, staff and young people represent the vigilance we must maintain.
As I have been reflecting on all of these things, it becomes more important than ever to create a sense of belonging for all of us. Sociologists will point to the post World War II period as a source of some of our issues. Economic growth and the automobile ended the neighborhood, which for America, represented the village, small town culture of Europe. Grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins were no longer down the street or around the corner. The Church a block or so away, became miles away. The small market, pharmacy, dress shop, became characterless malls breaking the beauty of open fields and forested hills. Families found themselves too busy with work, scheduled activities, the coming of the “play date” because you no longer stepped out the front door to a neighborhood alive with sights and sounds and a range of adults who kept an eye on every child. An interesting aside is that American cities are beginning to see a resurgence of population, perhaps related to our natural need to be a part of something. I could go on but there is no need to as we all see around us a sense of isolation even within families that has been exacerbated by social media.
It is my belief that the extreme of this isolation is what contributes to some of our children believing they don’t belong and beginning to see others as an enemy to be feared. We are trying to do our part, for example with our Random Acts of Kindness program (especial thanks to Ms. Leap and Mrs. Deniz). We will be looking at other ways to create community. But no one and nothing replaces the family. Taking time to read together, as noted above, weekly family activities, maybe having Sunday dinner as a family. I am sure you can think of many things. And as I have the chance to share other choices, I will and I welcome hearing your suggestions.
Let’s, together, create our own village, where everyone belongs.