I remember asking Mrs. Stock, my high school English teacher, if I could read Jazz by Toni Morrison. The book had just come out. I had been reading books like Beloved, Sula, Their Eyes Were Watching God (by Zora Neale Hurston) and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (by Maya Angelou). I had an affinity for black female authors. Their words were strong and the subjects compelling. It was the first time I could put myself into the mind of a slave or an otherwise oppressed woman. I was sixteen years old, and I was riveted.
Mrs. Stock was hesitant when I asked to read the book because she wasn’t sure if the content was appropriate for me, not to mention the fact that she hadn’t read the book herself. I remember her explaining her concern and how I countered by telling her I could handle the book and the writing of a report. She agreed. I read the book and wrote a pretty darn good report, if I remember correctly.
That small vote of confidence made a huge difference in my life. And is part of the reason I am a writer today. The words that I read back then molded my love for writing. Something as simple as giving me the go ahead to read what my heart and mind yearned for showed me that I did not have to limit myself.
I mentioned to my friend the other day that my boys have yet to have a teacher that I haven’t loved. I have already seen the profound impact each one of them has had, in the smallest of ways, on my kids.
We often hear more about the bad experiences with teachers than the good ones. Those moments, the positive ones where a child is empowered in a new and exciting way, can stick with that child for a lifetime.
There are times I have stopped to think about where I would be without teachers like Mrs. Stock, or without the education I am fortunate to have had throughout my life.
Education can transform lives and is the most impactful way to help children escape poverty. Education had a direct impact on health and well-being. It also gives children the knowledge, skills and confidence they need to shape a better future for themselves. When a child begins, and stays in school, she not only changes the course of her own life, but that of future generations.
With that said, I’ve got another gift that gives back for you to consider this holiday season.
The Soft Toys for Education Campaign is a global initiative and involves the entire range of IKEA soft toys and children’s books. For every soft toy or children’s book purchased at IKEA from November 9 2014 until January 3 2015, the IKEA Foundation will donate $1.00 to Save the Children and UNICEF. The money is donated to projects focusing on providing children in low and middle income countries a quality education in Europe, Africa and Asia.
More than 11 million children have been impacted through 99 projects in 46 countries since the Soft Toys for Education Campaign started in 2003. Each year, IKEA customers who buy a soft toy make a contribution to the vision of a world where each and every child can go to school. It is a good investment for children living in poverty, and it creates opportunities that impacts generations to come. The donations will help UNICEF and Save the Children train teachers in child-friendly teaching methods, improve child protection systems, supply educational materials in the schools, help rebuild schools, provide better water and toilet facilities, and increase school attendance rates.
The total amount donated so far is $90.4 million.
I’m a big fan of IKEA, along with the work of Save the Children and UNICEF. You really can’t go wrong with a soft toy purchase for the holidays.
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.