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Wednesday, Jun 7, 2023

A Trip to the Bookstore: Reading Redux

Some things are so good they’re worth doing again. In 2007, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Cooper Communications, we donated $25 to each of 25 children from the Boys & Girls Club of the West Valley to purchase books. Many of these youngsters come from single-parent homes, are economically disadvantaged, or live in an environment where English is minimally spoken, if at all. The Club’s goal is to give them more positive life options. After I wrote about that first Cooper Reading Challenge in this column, many of you contacted me and said that if I ever did it again, they’d love to participate. Well, since I don’t hold out high hopes to being at the helm of Cooper Communications 25 years from now, I decided to do it again in 2008. And we did, just before Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa (to be totally inclusive). Thanks to many of our friends, 25 children getting books became 96 the second time around. Just a few of those who contributed so that one or more children could buy books for themselves were: Club supporter and noted actor Hector Elizondo; AT & T;’s Kevin Tamaki; First Commerce Bank’s Wendy Moskal; CSUN’s Andrea Reinken; and several members of the Club’s Board. The Club invited all of its 2,500 youngsters to participate by reading an age-appropriate book and then writing a review of what they had read. The staff selected the best. Each of the 96 children selected received $25 to buy one or more books. (No CDs, no DVDs, no calendars, just books.) There was no overhead or anything else taken out; every dollar contributed went directly to a child to buy books. Borders gave the Club’s youngsters a 20 percent discount and provided them with snacks to help make it a more memorable experience. Many of those who donated enhanced their personal involvement by going with us to help the children shop, providing an extra degree of interaction between the donors and recipients. There were so many youngsters who participated that it took three separate trips to accommodate them all. There was rampant enthusiasm among all the children. One little girl was so happy she ran up one aisle and down another, flapping her arms and yelling, “I’m so excited!” As we were helping make their selections, I thought of Maya Angelou’s quote: “If I were a young person today, trying to gain a sense of myself in the world, I would do that again by reading, just as I did when I was young.” A few vignettes from our Borders trips: A young girl, about eight, said that she wanted to buy a book for her big brother for Christmas. When queried what he was interested in, she said, “He likes animals and cars can we find a book about both animals and cars”? She settled for a book on vintage Chevrolets. I wanted to point out a picture of a Chevy Impala thereby meeting her cars and animals criterion but I resisted the temptation. One of the Club’s teen members selected a more-than-500-page edition of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind. When asked if that was too long a book for her, she gave the questioner a withering look of disdain she was already deeply engrossed in the first chapter while standing in the checkout line. One high-school-aged youngster, as soon as he walked into the store said, “I’ve never been to a bookstore before what do I do now”? He’ll never have to ask that question again. When asked what kind of books he was looking for, Kevin whipped out a written list he had prepared. He had even called Borders in advance to make sure his selections were available. Ten-year-old Haley, who attends Ivy Academia, bragged about having read all 752 pages of The Count of Monte Cristo. He walked out with a large book on World War II, telling all who would listen about his uncle’s service in the Vietnam War. Natalie, a 14-year-old student at Northridge Academy, wins the Cooper Award for Selflessness. She selected a Spanish-English Bible for her mother. When it was pointed out to her that the bilingual Bible was $25 and that she wouldn’t have any money left over to buy a book for herself, she said that was just fine. The Bible was what her mother wanted for Christmas, and that was what she was getting. I hope Natalie’s mom appreciates her. Like all of you, I was gifted and regifted with a number of holiday baskets filled with goodies I’ll probably never consume. None of them came close to providing the pleasure and warm feelings we all received from the simple act of helping children pick out books. “There is no substitute for books in the life of a child.” Mary Ellen Chase Author of more than 30 books Martin Cooper is President of Cooper Communications, Inc. He is President of the Los Angeles Quality and Productivity Commission, Founding President of The Executives, Vice Chairman-Marketing of the Boys & Girls Club of the West Valley, and a member of the Board of the Economic Alliance of the San Fernando Valley. He is a Past Chairman of VICA, Past President of the Public Relations Society of America-Los Angeles Chapter, and Past President of the Encino Chamber of Commerce. He can be reached at mcooper@coopercomm.net .

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