“For one who reads, there is no limit to the number of lives that may be lived,
for fiction, biography, and history offer an inexhaustible number of lives
in many parts of the world, in all periods of time.”
When our first daughter was a toddler, I once expressed some concern to her pediatrician during a routine visit about her limited talking. We knew she understood just about everything we said to her yet she wasn’t speaking as much as other children her age. The doctor wisely advised that we spend a substantial chunk of time every day just reading to her. Not just one little board book, but stacks of them!
We followed the doctor’s advice and thus began Meridith’s life-long love of reading. Oh, and yes, she certainly did become more verbal!
One of our favorite activities when the girls were young was our regular library visits. We were building quite a home library as well, but the fun of picking out new books to borrow never grew old. Together we discovered authors such as Bill Peet, Chris Van Allsburg, and Mary Calhoun. We learned of some of Dr. Seuss’s lesser known works. The girls each had favorites that they’d check out time after time. Each of us had armloads of books after every visit and we had a special place for the library books at home.
My own love of books began young as well. Mom read to me often and I firmly believe that’s why I could read before formal reading instruction began at school. One of my first favorite chapter books was “Heidi” by Johanna Spyri, a gift from my paternal grandmother whom I barely knew. When I received it, it was above my reading level at the time, but it wasn’t long before I found myself falling in love with the Alps and the sounds of the wind in the firs.
What a wonder it is to lose oneself in the pages of a book! To be so absorbed by the words written by another from some other time and place is to travel across space and time. Unlike TV or movies, a character comes alive in your mind. You see him or her and experience the scenes almost first-hand!
I believe developing a love of reading in a child is essential. Once they discover the power of their own imagination they’ll find they have the ability to create, to bring ideas to reality. Videos have their place, to be sure, but cannot, in my opinion, have the same effect as books.
During our packing for this recent move, we needed to downsize considerably. So a large percentage of our books were donated to charity. We still kept a lot! These days, with the availability of e-books, we find we do a lot of our reading on our Kindles. Isn’t it amazing to have access to hundreds of books in a small device you can hold in your hand? But still, there is something special about a familiar and favorite book. That’s why we still need our bookshelves and always will!
Back in 4th grade I had the good fortune to have a teacher who treated the class to readings from the Pippi Longstocking series by Astrid Lindgren. I can’t remember how often she read, but it wasn’t daily. We laughed so hard at Pippi’s outrageous antics! Though by 4th grade we all could read, the joy of being read to in that way made such an impression on me that I remember it vividly to this day. I think Mrs. Salasses (can’t remember how to spell it!) was my favorite teacher in elementary school for this very reason.
Books open up the world. Isn’t it an amazing thing to consider that, through the printed word, we can listen to the voice of one who walked this same earth perhaps hundreds of years ago? Visit an imaginary world? Hear sounds from far, far away? Go grab a book and do a little time traveling today!