Books have this mysterious appeal. On one hand, books can be read to garner information like how long dolphins live or how castles were built. Books can be read to escape reality; we can jump into an adventure in the Amazon or find ourselves on the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro. But, perhaps one of a book's most alluring aspects is its magic.

Author Stephen King once said, "Books are uniquely portable magic."
One could chalk this up to art speak. Or, Stephen may have been on to something deeper. One of the most magical things about books is their power to quickly move from moments to memories within our lives.

Recently, the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading (SCGLR) hosted its Virtual Community Update (One day, we will be able to have breakfast, with bacon, together again). Throughout the webinar, a myriad of poll questions were asked to participants. Given the complexities of the last two years, we often hear how Zoom-Fatigued or Zoomed-Out people are. While this may be true at times, it could not have been further from the truth during the update. The level of engagement throughout the chatbox and polls was unlike anything I have personally ever seen. The messages between participants and the deep, meaningful responses to the open-ended polls truly made the update feel as close to "normal" as possible.

One of the poll questions asked was, "In a few words, describe a memorable reading experience you've had. It might be a memory of how you learned to read, a favorite book you've read, or a memory of you reading with or to others."

The speed at which responses flowed in demonstrated the theoretical nerve this question struck with our participants. (In fact, we had nearly six full pages of transcription from this question alone).

With the chatbox serving as a virtual town square, the magic of books was on full display. There were comments regarding family, such as "Sitting on my mom's lap as she read to me." Or "Reading at bedtime with my own children."

Others shared their love of libraries. "Going to the children's section of my local library when I was little and finding a comfy chair and a good book." "Having my grandfather walk with me to the library."

Another participant shared their great memories of "sitting in a tree in the summer and reading my favorite books. Warm sun, slight breeze, and great words."

One of the most memorable comments mentioned was how books about people similar to ourselves could (and often do) spark a love of reading. "As a 4-year-old black girl in the 1940s, my cousin shared the 1st story from a book with black children. I read every story in that book as I grew up, and I shared it with my children. Seeing others in books who look like me made a difference for me and sparked my love for reading and learning."

Oftentimes, we may think of SCGLR as simply an effort to increase reading numbers within our school districts. But the aforementioned comments and the Virtual Community Update show as spectacular reminders that SCGLR is far more than a numbers boost. It is a movement working to create a lasting impact in children and their family's lives. By giving children the opportunity to create memories through a love of literacy, the SCGLR movement creates a better Suncoast and a world full of future possibilitarians.

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