Passion for reading is eternal gift

Tucsonan Andrew Ulanowski may have quit school after ninth grade, but that didn’t mean he quit learning.

Andrew Ulanowski with his beloved books/subitted photo

Andrew Ulanowski with his beloved books/subitted photo

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.”

Illustration Ryn Gargulinski

Illustration Ryn Gargulinski

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


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 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 E-mail

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25 Responses to Passion for reading is eternal gift

  1. Jennatoolz says:

    Heya Ryn! Very cool blogski today!

    I’m somewhat ashamed to say that I HATED reading while I was growing up…especially when my teachers required it, haha. It probably partially explains why I would get C’s and D’s that barely let me pass any of my classes. Procrastination played a big part in that too, haha. I was still able to graduate high school..which no one else in my immediate family has done, so that was an accomplishment at least.
    Now that I’m in college, I make sure to read chapters (even though half the time it all looks like a different language and its sometimes hard to follow). Because of that, I’ve been able to make straight A’s — which also means I’ve made Honor Roll with Highest Honors for 3 quarters in a row! Another huge accomplishment! It also shows that reading really does make a huge difference!

    Andrew, how very cool of you to take part in something that can make a difference with these children’s lives in a good way! It’s heartwarming, inspiring, and definitely something to admire! We can only hope that these children will recognize, appreciate, and take advantage of the opportunity they have been given. Go you!! 😀

    • Rynski says:

      hiya jenna!
      glad you enjoyed the blogski – and so very cool you are kicking butt with straight As and are an honor roll queen – go, jenna! also excellent that you were the first to grad. high school. perhaps you set the stage from here on out.
      i’ve always loved reading – which is why i ended up as english major all around. figured we’d get to sit around and read then dissect some really awesome literature. i figured right.
      i’ll also say even english can be hard to follow – esp. when you take a shakespeare class. i remember crying the first time i had to read one of his plays – i had no idea what the heck they were saying (haha). once you get used to it and fully understand it, however, it’s a joy.
      keep up the beautiful work!

      • Jennatoolz says:

        Hahah, I tried to set a good example! My siblings are both younger than I –my brother is 22, and my sister is 19, and neither of them graduated high school. They did go get their GED’s though, which is okay. I’m glad to say that they are both showing interest in attending college soon, which I think would be amazing! Even my boyfriend is wanting to go back to school! I hope they all follow through with what they say now…hahah. Only time will tell. 🙂

        English major! How brutal…english my LEAST favorite subject. I give you props though! I’m glad I don’t have to take any of those types of classes in my current program of study, haha. I was smart and took them right after high school at a community college, before I dropped out. Those credits miraculously transferred over, even though they’re 5 years old..hahah. 😀

        My captcha is “the readable” hahah. I felt it was appropriate. 🙂

      • Rynski says:

        no way! on the ‘readable’ captcha – tooooo funny.
        you are a shining example, it sounds like. that’s awesome.
        my least favorite subjects were always history and gov’t. ugh. i think it was mainly the way those texts were written – so dry, boring and put-you-to-sleepish droning on and on and on. i didn’t like chemistry until i one day realized i miraculously knew every ingredient in roach killer after taking a class.

      • Jennatoolz says:

        Hahah, I hear you with the dry, boring, sleep-inducing texts. This quarter, my school scheduled me to be in a Physics class (online!!). Myself and a couple other classmates have dedicated a LOT of time trying to understand the content and we just aren’t comprehending any of it. The book explains things, but it’s all jibberish. Because it’s an online class, we’re essentially teaching ourselves, and its just not working out. Very frustrating!!

        Any one out there know physics like the back of their hand that would be willing to help a few frustrated students out once a week for a few months?? LOL

      • Rynski says:

        egads – that sounds awful!
        i’m def. not the physics major over here – only took one physics class, by force, in college. all i remember is the prof. trying to prove some theory about movement by using this old, rusty train track with a wooden train on it attached to a big desk in the front of the room.
        he made some big production of the whole thing but then the train didn’t move as anticipated.
        oh well. the end.

    • erniemccray says:

      Way to go, Jenna. One reason reading is important and can be fun is because among the animals of the world it’s us human beings who can do it – read that is, one of the best ways to gain knowledge at one’s own pace that I can think of. It opens us to the world, takes us to places we might not ever visit in person, exposes us to ideas that can rid us of our false notions and prejudices.
      As you might gather I absolutely love to read, beginning when I was about three years old. I grew up in Tucson at a time when Jim Crow was very alive and proud of it. To escape his hateful world I would go to the downtown library which is something else now and lose myself on rafting trips with Huckleberry Finn or get caught up in one of Marguerite Henry’s tales that always fascinated me or bask in the deliciousness of Langston Hughes’s play with words.
      I’ll always remember the librarian, and it bothers me that I can no longer remember her name – but when I walked into the place she would stop everybody from reading and introduce me and brag about how good I could read and my self esteem (which I kind of had loads of anyway in spite of the crippling racism of the times) would rise above the universe.
      Well, enough already, you’re probably saying. Keep on reading and I’m about to do just that.
      You know something that would be real cool if you’re up to it? Give Andrew a hand with his program and, based on my life around kids and schools, you’ll find that they “will recognize, appreciate, and take advantage of the opportunity they have been given.” If you’re excited and the other adults are also, the kids will be too. Excitement is infectious. “Go you!! I don’t know you but I’m proud of you, how you’re taking off and learning. But online physics sounds like not such a good idea – good luck with that. You’ll get er done, though.

      • Jennatoolz says:

        Thanks Ernie…that nearly made me cry. You have a good soul! 😀
        And yes, online physics is not a good idea…I don’t recommend it to anyone. 😛
        Happy Holidays to everyone! I’m off to bake a cheesecake and do last minute things!

  2. leftfield says:

    Good on you, Andrew; both for recognizing the the value of reading and helping the reading lab get started.  You’re right – you can start a revolution by reaching one person.

    Good on you, Jenna, for continuing your education and for your success in college.  Material things come and go, but your education is yours forever.

    • Jennatoolz says:

      Thanks Leftfield! 🙂

    • Rynski says:

      i agree – good job to both!
      esp. love andrew’s quote:
      “I started to realize that one doesn’t have to save the WHOLE world to make a difference. Maybe if we can save the parts we can see for a start.”

      • Jennatoolz says:

        I loved that quote too! If everyone took the time to help just one other person…we’d all be covered. Unfortunately, the greedy ways of the world prevent that from happening a lot of times. But, then it just makes those that DO help others, like Andrew, stand out and be a hero in a sense. 😀

      • Rynski says:

        it makes me want to hold open the door for people (haha).

      • Jennatoolz says:

        To some, that may make you a hero! Hahah!!

      • Rynski says:

        seriously, though, i remember getting an “assignment” from one of my friends to do ONE GOOD THING for someone each day. no expecting thanks, and even doing it anonymously if possible.
        it made a huge difference. the positive energy you get from helping others comes back around a million-fold. try it.

  3. Andrew Ulanowski says:

    Ryn, so much thanks for featuring the Reading Lab! Yay! What a cool blogski! And on Christmas Eve! I sure hope some folks take notice and give Dr. Eagleton a call.
    Kudos to you Jenna for your fine scholastic accomplishments! Sounds like you are a leader in your family.
    Thank you leftfield for your revolutionary remarks!
    I’ll let you know what happens . . .

    • Jennatoolz says:

      Thanks Andrew! I didn’t realize how much reading had an impact until I read this blog and looked back at my own education experience. I was the kid that would skim through chapters, or read the summary in the front or back of the book and call it good. I really don’t know why I had such a hatred for reading books. I just know I can’t do that now if I want to keep my 4.0 gpa, haha!

      Say, in all your reading adventures…you didn’t by chance get to know physics at all, did you?? Hahah, kidding! 🙂

    • Rynski says:

      thank YOU, andrew, for being a reading leader and helping these kids. do hope some help comes in and YES! keep us posted on the progress.
      merry merry!

  4. Andrew Ulanowski says:

    You’re welcome Jenna! I loved your sense of heightened awareness about your own reading. Pass the word if you know anyone who might want to contribute to the Reading Lab!
    Funny, physics happens to be a love of mine, a hobby you could say. I’d help if I thought it would make a difference. I met one of my best friends tutoring Algebra.
    I love that you got ‘the readable’ for your CAPTCHA earlier, very appropriate to the day.

    • Jennatoolz says:

      I’m sad to say that I’m having a bad experience with Physics right now. I know I’m not the only one in my class that feels that way either. It would be just fine if it was taught on campus rather than online. All I can do is push through it and hope that it doesn’t completely ruin my ‘A’ streak in the end! *sigh*

      Also…I just noticed that on the captcha thing itself, in the bottom right corner, it says “stop spam. read books.” Oh that captcha, for once, it is so relevant to the topic! Lol!

  5. Andrew Ulanowski says:

    You are the best Ryn! Huzzah to our very own Ryn Gargulinski!

  6. koreyk says:

    Kudos, Andrew, on your work to encourage reading.

    On a related note, I would say to everyone; if you open your brain, the entire world is a classroom.

  7. Ferraribubba says:

    Hey Rynski: Ya read true crime? I’ve got one for ya.

    When I was a reserve cop for Anaheim P.D., My 1st homicide call was on a Christmas morning. A woman had called in and had said that she had just shot and killed her husband, and she’d be waiting for us to arrive.

    I was dispatched to the call, and sure enough, there was a man’s dead body on the front porch.  The wife and her daughter were inside, on the couch, waiting for me, and I radioed back to dispatch what had happened, asnd that the crime scene was secured with the suspect in custody.

    The wife appeared to be pretty well beaten up and her story was that the dead husband had been on a 2 day drunk and after repeated beatings, decided to open presents. One of his presents to her was a .22 cal. pistol, as they were an outdoor type family, and when he ran out of booze, he started to the liquior store and said that the daughter was next in line to be beaten when he got back home.

    Well. he got as far as the front porch on his way out before she loaded the pistol and shot him in the back, killing him. Talk about a present that came back to haunt you!

    Merry Christmas, sweetheart!

    I was called to testify at her trial, where she was convicted of justifiable homicide and given a 2 year suspended sentence and put on 2 years probation.

    Book  ’em Dano, yer pal, Ferrari Bubba

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