Do you remember the ad campaign of a couple of decades ago--send me a person who reads. . .? The gist of the ad was that a person who reads is likely to be well-informed, curious, engaged--in short, the kind of person you would want to hire.
Perhaps it comes as no surprise that I prize--no, treasure--reading. I think there are few activities you can do that are more rewarding than reading. And, no doubt, it will surprise no one that I urged our children to read.
From the time our son and our daughter were just wee babes, we read to them. And, as adults, they both love to read.
I have two wonderful stories about how they reacted to my reading stories to them. One morning, I was reading the wonderful novel Julie of the Wolves to our son. Without giving anything away about the plot of this book, I came to a part where the alpha wolf in the pack is shot and killed. Seeing this detail ahead, I began to sob. My son, totally absorbed in the plot, said--Keep reading, Mommy, keep reading.
A decade later, when our daughter was little, I was reading the story Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes to her. Based on a true story about a young girl who lived in Hiroshima when it was bombed, the book reaches its climax as Sadako is dying. The Japanese custom is to buy a kimono for a young girl entering puberty. Since Sadako is dying, her parents spend a significant sum of money to get her kimono before she dies. This detail also left me teary--and my daughter glanced over at me and said--you're going to cry now, aren't you?
Books do have the power to move us.
I am very proud of my husband, who took part this week in a reading day in one of our local schools. Under the sponsorship of the American Literacy Corporation, 100 men in the Harrisburg area were recruited to go into the grade schools and middle schools and read to students.
My husband selected the book called The Three Questions, based on a story by Leo Tolstoy, written and illustrated by Jon Muth. This sweet book features a boy named Nikolai who asks three questions: 1) when is the best time to do things; 2) who is the most important one; and 3) what is the right thing to do?
He encounters his friends--Sonya, a heron; Gogol, a monkey; and Puskin, a dog. He asks them the questions, and puzzles over answers. Eventually they encounter a wise old turtle named Leo who guides Nikolai to the answers. (As an aside, I note the humor in the names in this story: Sonya was one of Tolstoy's daughters, Gogol and Pushkin are prominent Russian writers, and of course Leo is Tolstoy himself!)
As he was reading, my husband noticed the children becoming very engaged with the story. They began to pepper him with questions--for example, why do the animals talk? where are the boy's parents? doesn't he have other friends? why does he have animals for friends?
A book with the power to move children!
It was a small thing for my husband to do--take a couple of hours out of his work day morning. But, the long time impact is immeasurable. Children who are exposed to books have a whole world laid open before them. 100 men reading? Yes, and perhaps 1,000 children who may have one more reason to get turned on to books.