Tucsonan Andrew Ulanowski may have quit school after ninth grade, but that didn’t mean he quit learning.
He kept his knowledge growing and his mind alive through his love of reading.
That’s a good thing, too, since it takes more than pluck and luck to make it as a teen runaway hopping a plane from Chicago to Los Angeles.
“My love of reading has given me an education that rivals many college educations,” said the 48-year-old father of two, who passes along his passion to his kids.
He also wants to pass it along to a local middle school.
A new reading lab is in store for Tucson’s Carson Middle School, 7777 East Stella Road.
While it’s set to open Jan. 4 under the direction of Ulanowki’s good friend, Dr. Maya Eagleton, it’s off to a pretty flimsy start as far as resources go.
The school gave Eagleton’s lab $75. A $30 donation kicked the total up to $105.
You can barely buy a batch of books for that amount.
The lab is geared to help struggling students, but itself is struggling.
Anyone who needs some inspiration to donate – either money or resources – can just take a glance at some reading statistics.
A Kaiser Family Foundation Study looked at 8 to 18 year olds in the M Generation, so called because of their media use.
While all ages reported spending more than three hours each day watching TV, they reported spending less than one hour each day reading.
Those with the lowest grades spent the least amount of time reading, clocking in at a mere 29 minutes per day.
It’s no wonder their grades are so low.
It’s also no wonder that Ulanowski kept on learning – and continues to do so – since he pretty much loves every book he’s met, save for romance novels or the phone book.
“They seem to multiply wildly these days and can be recycled but are not recycle friendly,” he laments of those big yellow monstrosities. “I must say, though, that the smell of ink and paper is pretty compelling to me.”
But heck, if you dig reading the phone book, Ulanowski is not going to be the one to stop you.
“I think that is a key to having a lifetime habit of reading: Read what YOU enjoy,” he said. “Don’t worry about what other people think you should or shouldn’t read.”
As a parent himself, Ulanowski also has some tips on how parents can entice their kids to read:
*Pay attention to what your kids like
*Get them books as gifts at a young age and whenever possible thereafter
*Make sure the books are not too difficult or too easy
*Read stories out loud to your children
*Make reading a regular activity and try to make it happen as close to the same time every day as you can
His own mother, who always gifted him with books, was a major factor behind his passion for books.
“Reading has given me a good life,” Ulanowski said. “I love to read for leisure, when I have interest in gaining certain information that I can use to develop myself, as a great way to connect with people, as a way to connect my children to the world around them, and to be able to follow instructions for things like making cookies or delicious pie, or how to fix a car, for instance.”
As Ulanowski was helping to set up the reading lab, he became engaged with the idea of inspiring the students.
“I started to realize that one doesn’t have to save the WHOLE world to make a difference,” he said. “Maybe if we can save the parts we can see for a start . . . then that might be enough if enough people did it. Nothing heroic in one sense but completely heroic in another.
“I just saw a place and the opportunity to impact my friend’s effort to give these kids what I have had all my life, access to information that can be put to good use and the joy of a unique and imaginative story coming to life.”
Ready to donate yet?
Below is a list of the reading lab’s needs and wants.
For more information or to donate, call Eagleton at 584-4482 (direct line) or e-mail Margaret.Eagleton@tusd1.org
1. White printer paper
2. Spiral notebooks, wide ruled, 3 hole punch (35 minimum, for student journaling)
3. Sticky notes – 2×1.5, 3×3 & 3×5, bright colors
4. Index cards – 3×5 & 4×6, various colors, unlined
5. Postage stamps (to mail confidential letters home to parents)
6. Incentives & rewards for reluctant readers, ages 11-14 (food, posters, books, music, gift certificates, etc.)
7. Money for educational software
1. 8.5×11 white lapboards & dry erase markers – 12x
2. Books (compiling list right now)
3. Educational games
4. Flip chart stand & paper
5. 3 hole punch (to help students be organized)
6. Electric pencil sharpener
7. 4 GB Flash drive (to save & print student work)
No donations are tax deductible and they must be given directly to the lab, not the school’s general fund.
Ryn Gargulinski is a poet, artist, performer and TucsonCitizen.com Ryngmaster who loves reading true crime and police reports. Her column usually appears every Friday on Rynski’s Blogski but came early this week due to Christmas. Her art, writing and more is at RynRules.com. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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