created at: 2012-12-02“Reading is important because it can bring you into a whole new world.”

This quote by Asa Hamot, a current sixth grader at Temple Emeth Religious School (TERS), is one of the many inspiring statements in I Am Lucky Because I Can Read, a book about the importance of reading published by the Chestnut Hill Synagogue.

The book is the result of a literacy project conducted by Ray Feller with TERS students.

Ray met with the students to discuss the importance of education and reading in Judaism and to learn about literacy and illiteracy throughout the world. Each of the students wrote about the importance of reading and illustrated their thoughts. Adults in the Temple community added their comments on the importance of reading.

“Within Judaism, we have a strong emphasis on education,” Ray explained. “We are not only taught to read, but to really study—to question, debate, and wonder. Education is a priority. However, especially as kids, we may lose sight of how lucky this makes us.

“When I visited the Temple Emeth Religious School classes, we talked about literacy. I began by asking everyone what he or she liked to read. The enthusiasm grew once we expanded the definition of reading to include magazines, comics, websites, text messages, video games and more. Reading is so automatic for us that we sometimes forget how much we depend on it. For instance, we talked about how hard it would be to go through a day without reading a single thing – words are all around us all the time. We also talked about how hard it would be to find a good job without being able to read.

“Next, we expanded our perspective even further. I provided some statistics which showed that there are about 800 million illiterate adults and 130 million illiterate young people in our world. Imagine how many problems might be solved if more people could read and write! Reading and writing are major keys to sharing ideas, keeping up with the news, and challenging difficult situations.

“The conversations with the students were impressive. They were willing to place themselves in other people’s shoes… especially people who may not even have shoes in the first place. The students did not realize that the disparity in educational opportunities for people around the world. They were especially surprised to learn that in many places, girls are less likely to be educated than boys. I was moved by their compassion and their concern.”

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I Am Lucky Because I Can Read is a beautiful and colorful book that is being sold for $36. Proceeds from the sales of the book will benefit Room to Read, an organization which helps create schools and educational opportunities around the world.

“This project has three goals,” Ray stated. “First, it gives the community a chance to think about the importance of reading. Second, I wanted to transport the students’ enthusiasm outward. This lovely book allows everyone the chance to think about reading. Put it on your coffee tables and let it spark conversation! Finally, the students’ concerns needed to go toward something that could really make a difference for those in the most need. Room to Read funds libraries and classrooms in Asia and Africa in ways that support gender equality.” Find out more at www.roomtoread.org

For more information, contact Ray Feller at rayfeller@templeemeth.org or call Temple Emeth at 617-469-9400.

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