24 December 2016

My Christmas Wish: Literacy for All

Melodie’ll be right with ya. Christmas Eve and there I am at the shop and whadya know. In drops Santa. Seems in Brooklyn, somebody stole the hubcaps off his sleigh, knowhatimean? So just happened to have a set in stock, came in fresh this afternoon, a perfect match, indistinguishable from the originals, if you get my drift. Vinnie slapped them on while Solly helped cinch down the loot, er, gifts in the back. Solly didn’t do so good ’cause when Santa lifted off, whadya know… there’s a few items what fell off the back of the sleigh.

We was real heartbroken about that, especially when Gina and Velma walked in and gave us hell. Don’t mess with Velma. My coglioni still hurts from last year when I told her, “Baby, I got yer yule log right here.”

Gina was a little mollified when Santa sorta dropped his December issue of Ellery Queen and there was a Steve Steinbock report all about her. Well, not exactly her, but her mouthpiece. Ya got to add the word ‘mouth’ to that or she gets all unaccountably insulted. Anyways, this is what the review gotta say:
Melodie Campbell, The Goddaughter Caper, Raven Books, $9.95. Gina Gallo tries to steer clear of her family's questionable business dealings. But when she discovers the body of a local Peeping Tom in the alley behind her shop, fate forces her hand. She and various cousins find themselves in a topsy-turvy mess of missing bodies, a surplus of coffins, and geriatric misbehavior. Campbell's writing is always funny. The Goddaughter series, of which this slender novella is the fourth volume, is part of Orca Books' Rapid Reads imprint, making it a fast, fun read.
That put her in a lot better mood and she didn’t dislocate no more body parts. She thinks you might enjoy it too, maybe find one in your stocking, capisci?

— Pietro ‘the Limp’ Peyronie (as dictated to Velma)

My Christmas Wish: Literacy for All

by Melodie Campbell (Bad Girl… only not so bad today)

Last year, I had the honour of being guest speaker at the Hamilton Literacy Council AGM.  This wonderful organization provides one on one tutoring to adults in Hamilton who don't know how to read.  The teachers are marvelous.  They are mostly volunteers.

The theme for the AGM was all about wishes.  Dream Big.  That sort of thing.  And so the staff came up with a brilliant idea for centrepieces for the AGM.  Each table had a crystal globe in the centre of it, like a snow globe.  Each globe had a different note inserted into the middle.  And on the note was the dream of one of the students from the literacy council.

I picked up the globe on my table. The note inside it read:

"I want to work in a store someday."

I felt my throat constrict.  My eyes started to tear.

Many of us work in stores when we are in high school or college.  It is our 'starter job' - the one we can't wait to leave after graduation from school to get the better job for which we trained.  I remember working at a mega grocery store.  Eight hours on my feet, unrelenting noise, and lots of lifting.  I was so grateful to leave it.

I thought about our student who wrote that note.  What she wanted most in the world was to become literate so she could work in a store.

Because she couldn't work there now.  She couldn't read labels.  She couldn't read sales slips.  Most stores have computers.  She couldn't read the text on the computer screen.

She couldn't even fill in the application form to work there.

Literacy has always been a cause dear to my heart.  I write a series of crime books for adult literacy students who are reaching the advanced certificate stage.  I donate all the proceeds from my book launches to the literacy council.  But at the AGM, this student opened my eyes and reached my heart.

In our society, we expect everyone to be able to read.  Jobs today require it.

All my life, I have imagined how sad it would be to be unable to read a book.  Imagine how it would feel to be unable to fill out a job application.

My fervent wish this Christmas is the gift of literacy for everyone.  May everyone in my town, Hamilton, and my country, Canada, be able to read.  May everyone in the world have the chance to learn, and may teachers and tutors everywhere continue to make it happen.

Merry Christmas to all.


  1. Oh, Melodie. Something in the air, my eyes are misty too. What a key education is, especially literacy.

    Guess what? Kris Kringle left a copy of The Goddaughter's Revenge in my stocking! I'm already ⅔ through it. Love those characters.

  2. A nice wish, Melodie — and a touching story. And congrats on the nice EQMM review too!

  3. "Yule log?!" (Can you hear the snickering all the way from Toronto)
    Methinks Velma had an inside track with Santa, Leigh. Many thanks to her for that wonderful intro.

  4. Thanks, Art! I felt honoured to be in EQMM. The funny thing is how I found out. Was out to lunch on Thursday with Janet Costello, one of the co-chairs of Bouchercon 2017. She said, "By the way, that was a great review of your last book in Ellery Queen last month." I responded with an extremely intelligent "Huh??" Then began the panic-search to find a copy, since the issue was gone from stores.

  5. A true Christmas wish!
    It is easy with all the criticism of school, particularly on this side of the border, to forget education is the real transformative agent.

  6. Too funny a book and too funny a review and then a minute later I'm choking up. It's Christmas Eve and emotions are everywhere. Not being able to read is too awful to contemplate, but even worse is those who know how but don't. At least the one can be cured with willingness. Happy holidays and congrats on the lovely review. xoxo

  7. That is so true, Janice. Thanks for that comment.

  8. Talk about an emotional roller-coaster of a post! From "Yule log" to working in a store is one hell of a jump. As a bookaholic who thankfully was taught to read by my mother when I was 3 years old, I can't imagine a life without books - and I hate to think of anyone who can't read and have that world-opening experience. Wow. Thanks. Merry Christmas.

  9. I can't adequately describe the feeling that came over me at the AGM, Eve. It was the manifestation of the word 'hope.' And for those receiving literary certificates - pure joy. I changed that night, and it was the students who changed me.

  10. Melodie, I finished Revenge last night and thoroughly enjoyed it. I was impressed by what little exposure I've had to the world of mafia how authentic your story sounds. And the characters are loads of fun.

    Happy Christmas, lady!

  11. That's a touching story, Melodie, and a lovely wish. I hope you and all others who celebrate Christmas have a very merry holiday. And I hope all my fellow Jews everywhere have a deeply joyous Hanukkah as we celebrate the re-dedication of the temple in Jerusalem over two thousand years ago.

  12. Leigh, I am SO glad you enjoyed it! You've made my day.

  13. Yes Bonnie - I should have included that, especially today of all days, which is the first day of Hanukkah. I am learning of Jewish history through a really good The Great Courses course. Happy Hanukkah to you and your loved ones!

  14. Pietro "the Limp" Peyronie ... LOLOLOL! As a medical language specialist for many years, I get the joke.

    I'm going to play devil's advocate here though. Obviously the girl could string a few short words together. There is _nothing_ intrinsically wrong with working in a store anyway.

    A former boyfriend had a day job in telemarketing. He also sang, acted, & wrote songs & poetry. He confided in me that by following the same scripts every day & using the same tiny vocabulary, he worried that he would lose his facility with language. I told him he was absolutely correct & he should get out of that business. Eventually he did.

  15. Hi Elizabeth! I'm so glad you got that. BTW, Leigh left you a note after your comment yesterday.

    Bonnie, happy Chanukah!

  16. Ha, Melodie! I've had that kind of thing happen a couple of times before too--always feel like I should've known some bit of news, but also always glad to have the good news surprising me! Better than bad news surprising, of course! :-)

  17. Hi Velma, thank you for telling me about the message from Leigh in yesterday's thread. Happy Festivus everyone!

  18. Very sweet, Melodie. Some time I will have to write about the time I spent volunteering for the literacy council.

  19. Lovely post, Melodie. I have fond memories of my dad reading to me and me reading to him. Merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah, and season's greetings to all.

  20. Moving post, Melodie.

    I still remember my first year of teaching (actually, maybe it was student teaching) when the guidance department sent a memo to every teacher of a particular boy. He was in tenth grade, and somehow someone (?) had finally discovered he could only read at the first grade level and his parents had been doing his homework for years. When his parents were confronted about it, they said "We didn't want anyone to think he was stupid."

    And like Barb, I remember my parents, grandmother, and cousins reading to me from the time I could sit upright. Since my family included teachers, actors, and two journalists (back when they were still called "reporters,") I read well by the time I entered kindergarten (so did my younger sister) and it amazed me that some other kids couldn't.

    Thank you to my family for giving me such a precious gift that never wears out...
    And best to all for the season and upcoming year.

  21. Elizabeth, I was a hospital director for years. I'll let you explain that particular medical term (grin - waiting for it...yule log and all)

    Art, Rob and Barb, thanks so much for commenting!

    Steve, I love your thought, "a precious gift that never wears out." So perfect a description for being able to read. Thank you!


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