I do not mean to oversimplify what’s going on in our nation at the moment. We’ve got work to do – hard work. But I do mean what I say, here. Our children need books and stories and access to them – and adults willing to read to them — now more than ever. Let them read. Read to them. It’ll make the world a better place.
Because reading informs the mind. We can learn how to make killer banana pudding, a paper airplane that actually flies, and the difference between a fruit and a vegetable. Books share with us the exact location of Kentucky on a map, the fact that polar bears and penguins live on opposite poles, and that Nellie Bly managed to travel around the globe (before commercial airliners) in 72 days. Sure, information is everywhere: online, on the radio, spouting out of the old man in the waiting room; but information in books allows you to dig deep, to immerse yourself in the topic at hand, to fully comprehend. Children who read grow up to be adults who understand. We could use some understanding right about now.
Because reading generates empathy. As the late, great Harper Lee’s Atticus Finch says in To Kill a Mockingbird, “[y]ou never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view . . . until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” There is no easier way to gain empathy than to read – it plunks you right into another person’s body and allows you to be someone else, to understand what another human feels and thinks. Though each and every one of us is an individual, unique on this planet, we share interests, worries, sorrows, and delights, even if the character in a book may not look like us or share our lifestyle, beliefs, or heritage. When he reveals his human emotions, we relate, we respond, we empathize; in the end, we’re a lot more alike than we are different. Children who read grow up to be adults who feel. We could use some empathy right about now.
Because reading provides comfort. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again (and again and again): it is incredibly difficult to read while multi-tasking. A bedtime story while you’re folding laundry or responding to an email? Unlikely. When you read a book, be it quietly to yourself or out loud to your kiddos on a mound of pillows, that is pretty much all you are doing. And it feels great. Undivided attention always does. Favorite stories come and go. We have authors and illustrators whose work sings to us. But in the end, it is the very act of reading – the simple process of taking time out of our day to read a good book – that provides quiet pleasure. A gift of time, information, and understanding all to ourselves; a habit that soothes, informs, provides understanding and comfort. Children who read grow up to be adults who can find peace. We could use some comfort right about now.
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