'Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope. It is a
tool for daily life in modern society. It is a bulwark against poverty,
and a building block of development, an essential complement to
investments in roads, dams, clinics and factories. Literacy is a
platform for democratization, and a vehicle for the promotion of
cultural and national identity. Especially for girls and women, it is an
agent of family health and nutrition. For everyone, everywhere,
literacy is, along with education in general, a basic human right....
Literacy is, finally, the road to human progress and the means through
which every man, woman and child can realize his or her full potential.'
I’ve been a schoolteacher. Right after college in 1969, like a lot of guys, I taught school as an alternative to serving in Vietnam. I was married with a week-old daughter on graduation day. I taught grade school English in Cleveland, Ohio for six years. After that, I ran, eventually owned, a longstanding bookstore in downtown Cleveland. It felt something like Three Lives in the West Village. I went on to found an alternative weekly paper like the Voice, also in Cleveland. It lasted 12 years. Twenty-one years ago I moved here, armed with an idea and a prototype for a national book magazine. Like a Rolling Stone for books. I never raised the huge amount of money I needed. I then worked for a media company, editing a couple of neighborhood weeklies, more than once using my editor’s space to talk about city kids and reading. Between the editorial jobs, I taught English for a year here in Manhattan at a Catholic boys’ high school with mostly minority kids. I was terrible at discipline. But sometimes when we found a book or a story we liked, it all came together.