Gathering with friends and fellow volunteers at the side of the Green Friday, LEAP alum Samod Rankins thought it was turning into a beautiful day to read. As small clusters of students scattered across the grass, chattering away, he made his move — it was going to be an Arthur and the Double Dare kind of morning — and walked toward a group of young boys, who arranged themselves in a neat circle at his approach.
Two groups away, Shirley West (pictured below) chose one of her old favorites — Maya Angelou‘s Letter to My Daughter — and began to share the poet’s words with a group of eight girls.
That’s because there was cause for literary celebration in the air. Some 50 community volunteers came out in force for Leadership, Education, and Athletics in Partnership, Inc.‘s (LEAP) annual read-in on the New Haven Green. In addition to New Haveners like Rankins, who saw it as an opportunity to “give back” to the community, they included elected officials like Mayor Toni Harp, state senators Martin Looney and Gary Winfield, State Reps. Roland Lemar and Juan Candelaria, and departing Alder Abby Roth.
“I started reading when I was around your age, but I didn’t really recognize how important it was until much later. Some of the most fun times I had, even today, are reading books before I go to bed. It’s really important for you because you live in a different world. You live in a world where knowledge and reading define what you do, what it is you can become. Reading is really important, but it’s also really fun and it will be fun for the rest of your life,” said Mayor Harp at the event.
“Reading has always been important to me. I grew up in the Bronx, and I didn’t have a great school. Reading is what allowed me to get to the point where I’m standing here, because all of the things I should have been learning in school, I learned because I was interested in books. Sometimes you’ll be like: ‘awwhhh, I don’t really wanna read,’ but there are places that you can’t go that you can go in these books. Keep reading,” added Winfield.
Their words sprang to life as the sun passed over the Green, illuminating 50 hands turning thousands of pages. There was an affinity for rich illustration ...
... some positive interactions with the New Haven police ...
... a bookish reenactment of The Creation of Adam ...
... and some genuine fun.
After all, it was a beautiful day to read.