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You’re all still reading, aren’t you?

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Apparently, it’s I Love to Read Month in Manitoba schools.

I know, because I read colleague Jenny Ford’s story in today’s dead-tree edition about Winnipeg Jets Andrew Ladd and Bryan Little reading in Winnipeg schools. You can read it here.

I Love to Read Month is one of the niftiest events conducted in our school system each year. Adults go into schools and read to kids — a pretty enjoyable time that sneakily helps kids realize that it’s cool to read, that it’s fun to read and that reading will make for a much better life. It helps a lot to have obvious role models reading to kids whose inclination to read may not be reinforced at home as much as you might hope.

Some years I read in four or five schools. Even after we packed our kids’ younger books into boxes, I kept out a few just for February reading invites — favouring Time Train and Maggie and The Monster for picture books, Roald Dahl and the first chapter of the original Anne of Green Gables for novels. One year I read the first chapter of Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles from my books, based on my having read it in Grade 7 — guess that one hasn’t aged as well as I had thought.

I don’t remember hearing anything this year about I Love to Read Month before today’s story.

Education Minister Nancy Allan must have proclaimed it, but I don’t remember seeing the news release. I can’t remember hearing anything from the school divisions, and I can’t recall a single request from a school for coverage of anyone’s reading to the kids. Some years, it seemed that every school that had the lieutenant-governor or mayor coming to read was asking for a reporter and photographer to attend.

There were days in years past that I went to a school with my little bundle of books, and I’d be among three or four readers, all later gathering in the staff room for coffee. There was even one really neat trip down country gravel roads to a Hutterite Colony school out near Starbuck.

This year.... OK, yes, I am whining and moping, and I do have my nose out of joint. I haven’t been invited to a single school to read to the kids. I wasn’t invited anywhere last year either — it’s two years since I’ve read, and yes, I do keep meaning to return that visitor’s badge to the school in St. James.

I don’t think I committed any horrendous gaffe two years ago. And yes, now that we’re empty nesters, we do go away in February, and will be leaving Friday for a week, but I’m here at work three weeks in February, and will be working Feb. 27, 28, and 29. I just haven’t been asked to read, and come to think of it, beyond not getting any specific personal invitations, I can’t recall any blanket invites coming here that were distributed among our staff looking for volunteers to get out of their cubicles and have a good hour or two reading on company time.

I hope that none of this means that fewer schools are involved in I Love to Read Month.

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About Nick Martin

Nick Martin is the old bearded guy at the back of the newsroom, the most experienced reporter at the Winnipeg Free Press, having started his career in Ontario in 1971.

He’s been covering education for the Free Press since the spring of 1997, after decades primarily covering municipal politics, including a four-year stint at the Ontario legislature for the London Free Press.

Nick moved to Manitoba in 1988 with his Winnipeg-born wife, who is a professor at the University of Manitoba. They have two kids, both of whom graduated from Grant Park High School: son Chris and daughter Gillian.

Nick has won a national journalism award from the Canadian Association of University Teachers, two Manitoba Human Rights Journalism awards, and the Ontario Reporters Association investigative award.

Nick is a long-distance runner, having finished and survived 18 marathons and 15 half-marathons and 30-kilometre races, and having (barely) survived 10 years as an outdoor and indoor soccer coach.

Nick became a soccer referee in 2007, delighting in his 60s in outrunning 16-year-olds and keeping his distance from obstreperous coaches and parents.

Nick and his wife have discovered a mutual love for kayaking at their Whiteshell cottage, and are both regulars at the Reh-Fit Centre. They hold season tickets to both the Manitoba Theatre Centre and the Warehouse, and as empty nesters, have rediscovered the joys of an active winter vacation.

A native of Jarrow-on-Tyne, England, Nick is a member of the Toon Army as a Newcastle United supporter, and a proud citizen of Leafs Nation.

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