Literacy Through Love... and a Bedtime Story

Every one of us can have a real impact on a child's life. A teacher's role is pivotal from the start. I recently spoke to a group at the TEPSA conference (Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association) and had the opportunity to share experiences about the children we all serve. The power one person can make in the life of a child is astonishing. Educators like those I met at TEPSA accept the challenge to try and make a difference every day in classrooms.

Teachers change lives all day long. If the rest of us can help improve a child's life when he's not in school, together we can help put more children on a happy and healthy path. Nighttime is an especially sensitive time for all children, especially for those we serve at Pajama Program who may feel shunned and abandoned. When these children get into bed at night they deserve to be comforted, they deserve to feel safe and they deserve to be at peace. Warm pajamas and books at bedtime are significant tokens of love to them. They deliver the message that someone cares.

All of us have a calling. Despite financial and administrative challenges, teachers respond to their calling with gusto. Every day their devotion to teach through love transcends the mindless pay cuts, budget slashes and never ending troubles they are up against. Sometimes I find myself reflecting on the past 12 years and what it takes to put one foot in front of the other. When I jumped off the corporate ladder nearly 13 years ago I could never imagine what the next decade would bring. Starting a non-profit was never something I thought I could do and if anyone would have suggested it, I'm sure I would have scared myself right out of the idea. But, no one suggested it. A little girl who had been abused and abandoned asked me what pajamas were... and my calling became clear.

We are working with teachers now so our literacy programs will bring the comfort of being a confident reader to a child at any age. Growing Pajama Program includes our new outreach to schools and we have assembled a Literacy Advisory Board of inspiring educators to help make this new vision of "comfort as a reader" a reality. We are partnering with some of the best people we could find. Individuals who are living their lives in schools each day, leaders in the effort to move Pajama Program into a unique partnership with school communities in order to be a professional resource to families and teachers.

This is where our calling comes in. We must take the children to the next level no matter what their days have offered, no matter what their bedtimes have been like.

So how do we measure success? Are any of us changing lives?

Can a new book along with a pair of warm pajamas change a child's life? YOU BET!

Success is the relationship between all of us and the children -- we all know when we have reached them, they reflect it right back to us and we see the confidence and the comfort in their eyes.

We need to be in this together. Teachers instinctively know what I am still learning. The sustaining power of literacy brings undeniable solace. Beyond the simple comfort reading generates, literacy brings a greater contentment: the knowledge that children can follow their dreams in the waking hours as well as in their sleep.