I was listening to radio one morning on my way to work recently, and the Wallflowers were singing about the one headlight being out and still driving it home. I’m sure there is a lot more to the song than just that, but I sang along anyway because it was a familiar tune from my youth. The song ended and commentary began making its way through the car speakers.
As per my usual selective hearing abilities, I blocked out most of it until the person talking said one of the most horrible things I have ever heard.
“I have found that one of the hardest things I have run into, is garnishing the love of reading into today’s youth,” she says. I was absolutely floored! A book is my best friend.
I can never imagine my life without books. When I was a child in third grade, Ms. Julia Ray would always set aside time in the day to read to the class from a book. I remember my little heart racing just to find out what was going to happen next in those Robert Munch midday snacks. I grew so impatient that one day I went home and badgered my poor mama into taking me to the library and getting me a library card so I could check out the very book we reading in the classroom.
I loved the smell of the library when I walked in. Those old books sitting there on the shelf wafting that sweet smell of paper and printed ink drew me in.
I just couldn’t get enough. I loved the smell of the library when I walked in. Those old books sitting there on the shelf wafting that sweet smell of paper and printed ink drew me in. I could never choose just one or two. I looked like Matilda in that movie with my small stature waddling out of the library door with my arms loaded down with every copy of The Babysitter’s Club or Judy Blume book I could carry. I was the typical cliché of the mother catching the child under the cover with a flashlight, reading a book into the early morning after bedtime was called hours before.
Middle school only fueled the fire for reading even more. I was a weird kid as most of us are at that age. I only had a handful of people I considered friends. I was an introvert with a stockpile of books and a bedroom all to myself. Somewhere in the mix, I began reading Stephen King. I loved horror movies back then (can’t stand them now). Imagine my teenage delight to find the words “based on a book by” rolling in the credits. You mean movies are based on books? I had uncovered a gold mine.
High school was the height of my reading addiction. The reading habit plunged into a literacy depth that I couldn’t seem to climb out of. My English Honors Class teacher, Wanda Strickland, introduced me to the wide world of Mr. William Shakespeare. Alexandar Dumas quickly followed. Chaucer led me on the Canterbury Tales, and I found myself drawn to the grotesque cook’s story. It was a never-ending battle of classics that filled my cup over and over.
My son was born in 2007. Almost every night, I read him a bedtime story. The one lead to two or three, and never once did his little eyes close as I was reading. He had to hear what happened next.
He turned 14 on Valentine’s Day this year. We had to build shelves over his bed to accommodate all of his books. I’ve often found myself taking away his flashlight in the middle of the night so he can get some sleep, instead of staying up all night reading.
We have learned throughout the years that in our family, we absolutely cannot start a book right before bedtime. My son has figured out that I will not buy a useless toy or mind-consuming video game, but I will always find money in the budget for a new book. I just couldn’t imagine raising a child in this world without encouraging a love for reading.
So, here’s my advice, radio lady.
Number one, always find the time to read to your child. A child clings to every word their favorite grownup says. Why not let them hear the words of a book?
Number two, refuse to buy a toy, but offer to buy a book instead. Children want something, no matter what store they go into. Lead them away from the toy department, and into the book section.
Number three, TAKE YOUR CHILD TO THE LIBRARY! Get your child a library card, and let them feel like they have some control over their little lives in this parent-ruled world. Believe me. They will thank you for it later.
Finally, number four, encourage your child to read no matter what. Find books on things they are interested in. Limit their screen time when it comes to TV or video games. You won’t be sorry.
Giving your child the love of reading is one of the greatest gifts known to man. It’s like giving them a passport to another land, time, or place. Let them lose themselves in a book, and let the story steal their hearts.
Teach your children that a book is your best friend.