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READING / The ABCs of helping youngsters achieve literacy--the
first skill | Discovering Books

When The Reading Light Went On

November 29, 1998|Duke Helfand

Ruben Zacarias, L.A. schools superintendent

At the age of 14 I went to work at the downtown main library here in Los Angeles.

They used to call us stack boys. When a citizen would come in to ask the library for a certain book and it wasn't on the shelves--maybe a special reference book--I was the guy who was sent to get it.

The downtown library had storage floors of books not open to the public. I would just feed on all these wonderful books. Even if I didn't read them, I would browse through them. Just holding these books was an experience that eventually paid off. It had a tremendous impact.

I could see the reverence that people had for these books. They would sit there and spend hours deeply involved in reading. You could tell they were doing research. You could tell they had a deep appreciation for the use and care of these books. Nobody in that library was throwing books around.

I did that for about a year and a half. Today, people say, "Do you like this kind of literature or that?" I say, "I like it all because I was exposed."

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