This was my response to a parent who asked me what her young daughter could do to prepare herself for the school years ahead. I truly believe that nothing prepares a child like reading. The preparation usually begins when a parent or some other adult who knows the value of the written word reads to the child.
My son grew up on Dr. Seuss books, Bible story books, comic books, science fiction books and other assorted reading materials. As an elementary school student, my favorite books were biographies. I can vividly remember curling up in a blue and cream overstuffed chair and reading by the light of a floor lamp with a bronze pull chain and cream shade. The series of orange-covered biographies I checked-out of the school library and in which I became totally immersed included the stories of Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, George Washington Carver, Mark Twain, Louisa May Alcott and Abraham Lincoln. From the church library I checked-out easy-to-read books about Jesus, Paul, Moses and others. Biographies, along with other nonfiction books, are still my favorites.
At the time, I didn’t realize the importance of reading. I just enjoyed it. The reason my son responded positively to Dr. Seuss was not because he thought it would help him later in life. He didn’t read comic books and science fiction books because he was told it was the thing he should do. He did it because he enjoyed it. When children are exposed to books, they learn the enjoyment of reading them. The enjoyment continues into adulthood.
A part of the enjoyment of reading, whether it is fiction or nonfiction, is being able to escape to anywhere in the world or universe. Another part of the enjoyment is that we can enter the lives and minds of other people. We share their experiences and their thoughts. We learn about their successes and failures and how these things affect their lives. We learn how some people overcome all odds and “beat the unconquerable foe” while others give in and give up. Through reading, we grow tremendously by adding the thoughts and experiences of others to our own.
People who don’t begin reading for enjoyment early in life eventually view reading only as something one is supposed to do in order to gain information. Many students and adults read merely because they are supposed to read in order to learn what they are supposed to learn. They miss the pleasure of the combination of learning and enjoyment at the same time. They miss how much easier and longer lasting the learning is when it is mixed with enjoyment. True, some things we read strictly for the learning experience can be rather dull or bland. But pity the people to whom all reading appears to be dull and bland.
So far, I have written seven books, two musical dramas, five plays, numerous magazine articles and newspaper columns. It still gives me a thrill to run into someone who tells me how much one of my books means to him or her, or how much he or she appreciated a certain article or column. I will never grow weary of such comments. Even when I receive emails from around the nation or world correcting me on something that appeared in one of my books, I appreciate it. I appreciate they are reading the books!
Every now and then, however, I meet people who don’t read any books. I was talking with a newspaper sportswriter about my book, “A Strategy For Winning” and he told me he had not read a book since graduating from college. Sadly, this is not unusual. After high school or college, many people stop reading books. A large number of them still glance at newspapers and magazines, but only at selective sections. Television is the source for news, entertainment and escapism (along with movies) for multitudes of people who have forsaken books and other printed materials. Television, however, lacks the power of the printed word to challenge one to think. It lacks the power to allow a person to visualize, to be creative and to bring the words to life with his or her own imagination.
Adults and children alike have also invited the Internet, e-books and video games to become their reading material and sources of contact with the universe. Used properly, the Internet is a wonderful tool, as are e-books and some video games. As a blogger now, I recognize the number of people who read and write Weblogs. But no matter how advanced electronic sources may become and what opportunities they may afford, they will never erase from my mind the memory of curling up in the blue and cream overstuffed chair, reaching up toward the floor lamp’s cream shade and switching on the bronze chain, allowing the light to shine on the words in those orange-covered books that gave me hours of enjoyment, adventure and learning.
© 2012, 2001 by Carl Mays, author of over a dozen books and speaker at over 3,500 events. Contact email@example.com. Information at www.carlmays.com. The free mentoring site www.mymerlin.net is based on his book and program, A Strategy For Winning. Visit Facebook Carl Mays and Facebook MyMerlin.net