Needle and ThREAD

Proof It’s a Good Idea (in case you need it)

Stitching bookmarks to encourage literacy was an original idea (I thought it up, by myself, in my own soggy noodle), but it’s not a unique idea. (Did I get that right, Becca?!) At least one other person thought of it before I did, and I suspect many others have thought of it, too.

Everyone, meet Leigh from Fairbury, IL. Leigh, meet Everyone. Leigh’s got a great story to share.

Warning to emotional sorts and those with leaky faucets: grab a hanky or at least put on a long-sleeved shirt.

Leigh writes:

Several years ago I had a lady friend who was in her late-fifties when she asked me to teach her to read. I had known this woman for 5 years and did not know that she could not read! Well, we hopped on down to the local library and joined the Adult Literacy Program, she as a student and I as her volunteer instructor. The library was so helpful. They provided all the materials I needed to help my friend, even giving me instruction in “how to be an instructor.”

My friend, who started out reading at a second grade level, wanted very much to read Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty because she said that was one of her favorite movies. After several months of hard work, I asked her to try Black Beauty and told her there would be a little surprise for her if she could finish it in one month.

We usually held our reading sessions at a quiet table in the back of the library, and that is where I gave my friend her reward just two weeks after she started the book. I had stitched a horse’s head and the words “Black Beauty” onto a piece of scrap fabric and sewed on a tiny lace trim; I’m sure it didn’t take me but two or three hours to complete. I will never forget the look in her eyes — or the tears all over her face — as she inspected her “very own personal bookmark.” Everyone in the library ended up coming over to congratulate her on her success; it became quite a party.

I still know this wonderful literate woman. She is now in her early eighties, and I know that she keeps her first bookmark in a plastic cover and cherishes the memories it brings to her. She says she began a whole new life when she learned to read and discovered the joys, the sorrows, the journeys, the beginnings, and the endings that books, magazines, letters, notes, and even e-mail bring to her. All of which she would never have had without the gift of reading.

My friend and I both have been stitching bookmarks for Adult Literacy, libraries, schools, and even hospitals for many many years now. I just finished one last week or so that went out to an adult literacy program. I’m a member of an internet bulletin board dedicated to stitching, and when I posted my “finished bookmark,” I wrote a fairly long post about donating bookmarks to these great causes. I was quite surprised at how many people responded that they had never thought of doing this.

Of course the more bookmarks a school or library gets the more prizes they can award, but just one cute little handmade bookmark can become an incentive for a whole room full of children or a cherished token for any adult. I hope you get a literal ton of bookmarks in response to your challenge to Stitch for Literacy. Each and every one will help induce a child to read another book.

Thank you for helping promote literacy in a country where education is free but often quite lacking in this basic skill.

You thought I was kidding about that hanky, didn’t you? Now look, you’ve got to mop up your keyboard.

The Bookmark Challenge is timed to celebrate Children’s Book Week, but at least one shop owner has chosen to target adults with the bookmarks she collects. It’s all good!

We want the Needle and Thread: Stitching for Literacy program to encompass more than the Challenge. The bookmark patterns sold with the program logo raise funds year-round for literacy programs. We hope stitchers will form book clubs and listen to books on tape while stitching, and that book clubs will try stitching bookmarks. We hope that more stitchers will do what Leigh did.

We would love to hear about it!

Thanks to Sue at Nordic Needle for introducing me to Leigh and her story, and thanks to Leigh for allowing me to share it here.

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