My childhood was a bit unusual. My mother died of breast cancer when I was 12, leaving me and my four siblings to largely fend for ourselves. Meals, holidays and school projects were never the same. But before Mom died, she instilled in us a love of reading and, in particular, a love of our local public library.
I remember Mom taking us to our library on Long Island and making us participate in the annual reading challenge there. Scouring the book list for the most interesting sounding titles, scratching our heads at the Dewey Decimal System, and carrying home my stack of treasure are the happy memories I associate with my public library. But by far the best parts were the adventures through which the books guided me, and the feelings of awe and accomplishment after I reached the last page.
When I took office in the State Assembly in 2003, I wanted to sponsor a similar event that would give kids a fun and easy way to get reading, as well as to encourage them to use and love their local public libraries. I still hum to myself the Reading is Fundamentalsong that used to play in commercials (anyone else remember it?!). I believe the song's message is as true now as it was then. Reading is absolutely key to fostering healthy kids. And our local libraries are an invaluable resource for the development of young minds.
This year, with my 13th Annual Community Reading Challenge underway, I'm excited to promote a booklist that encourages readers to learn more about outer space, including the history of space exploration, the science behind it, and the wealth of fiction that the human fascination with space has produced. Most importantly, I want kids to take away a greater appreciation of the universe we all share and their role within it.
The most joyful part of my job as an assemblyman has been reading and talking to children. I'm looking forward to doing just that this week at our Reading Challenge Festivals later today, Jan. 29, at the Bloomingdale Library. In case families can't make it today, we're holding a festival event on Wednesday, Feb. 17 at George Bruce Library. I look forward to seeing you all there!
Assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell represents Manhattan Valley, Morningside Heights and the Upper West Side in the State Assembly.