All of my children love to read. Why is that? Because I read them bedtime stories almost every single night since the day they were born. The bedtime story was sacred in my home. Why? Because I wanted to give my children the gift of the most precious thing I possess -- the love of reading.
I just finished reading a heart-breaking article by Dahr Jamail, describing an Iraqi journalist friend's recent trip to a morgue in the war-torn province of Diyala. His friend had been forced to search through photos of hundreds of dead bodies, trying to discover if the body of a colleague of his was there. "Today I went to the morgue," wrote Jamail's friend. "I saw horrible things there. I didn't see [H's] photo among [all the photos of the dead but] some figures cannot be easily recognized because of the blood or the face is terribly deformed. It's unbelievable." For sure.
"In your country," Jamail's friend continued, "when somebody wants to go to the morgue, he may naturally see two or, say, three or four bodies. For us, I saw hundreds today. Every month, the municipality buries those who are not recognized by their families because of the capacity of the morgue. Imagine!" Imagine that happening in MY home town? I wouldn't even know where to start.
But if you want to imagine the pure hell that Iraq must be like, just multiply one single morgue photo by 1,200,000 and you might -- maybe --start to get a glimpse of the nightmare that is American-occupied Iraq right now. Then add to that appalling number the violent and brutal deaths of over 4,000 American soldiers -- our brave troops who are now rotting corpses simply because they naively believed all the deliberate and outrageous lies told to them by Bush and Cheney. After the Downing Street documents were released, we all learned for certain that there had been no WMDs in Iraq -- but it's too late now to change the cold hard fact that the flower of one whole generation of American youth has been murdered, crippled, maimed and/or taught to become heartless killers by men in the White House whose hearts are filled only with hatred and greed.
Barbara Bush, shame on you. You shoulda read more bedtime stories to young Georgie! "My Pet Goat" would have been a good start.
And here's some good advice for the thieves and thugs and bogeymen who are blowing up their own people in Iraq. Get a life! Read a book! Have them translate Harry Potter into Arabic! And don't forget that it's Ramadan, guys. Stop blowing up babies and go read the Holy Qur'an. And the same goes for all of you "Jews" and "Christians" whose hearts are filled with meanness and greed. Read your freaking Bible! Read the Talmud. You saw what Imperial Rome did to the Temple? You saw what the Sanhedrin did to Christ? STOP DOING THE SAME THING. Back off. Listen to G-d. "In the beginning there was the Word...." But I digress.
Every single child in the world deserves someone to read them a bedtime story every night. To this end, I declare this week to be national "Every Baby Gets a Bedtime Story" week. Nope, make that "Every Baby Gets a Bedtime Story" week world-wide. From the wealthy gated communities of Northern Virginia where the weapons-dealers' children are tucked into bed by their nannies to the homeless shelters of Oakland in the basements of churches to the shanty towns of Darfur and Nigeria and Zimbabwe and the DRC to the barren workers' huts in China and Haiti to the Australian outback and the favilas of Rio -- every single child needs to get read to at bedtime.
Let's bring peace to the world, starting with the children. And if you are a baby living in a refugee camp in Kenya and you can't get a freaking bedtime story read to you because there is no one there who knows how to read, or because both your parents have died of AIDS in a former township in South Africa and your only "parent" is an eight-year-old girl in the same boat as you are, then call me! I'll be there on the next donkey cart. I promise.
And if you can't READ a story to a child then just make one up -- but preferably one with lots of positive images and a happy ending because we don't want the kids to have nightmares for the rest of their lives.
EVERY child needs a bedtime story read to them -- every single night.
PS: There already is an organization in America that does this sort of thing. It's called "Reading is Fundamental" and at the school that my children attended back in the day, R.I.F. supplied books as prizes for a reading contest held every year at LeConte school in Berkeley, California -- wherein if you were a kid and you read 300 books during the school year, at the end of the term you got to go out to lunch with the principal, the wonderful Ms. Penny-James.
The year that my daughter Ashley was in third grade, she read 600 books! "Why so many?" I asked her.
"Because I want my brother to be able to go out to lunch with Ms. Penny-James too."