Words Hold Power

Libri, books (Explore)Encourage Your Children To Read!

Once again New York Times writer Frank Bruni has waxed- poetic about an issue that always provokes my ire. His latest op-ed laments the decline in reading among children recently reported by Common Sense Media. Since I’ve been on this good earth for five decades, I grew up “computerless” and in a time when there were fewer than 10 television channels and nary a video game. Recreation consisted of going outside and reading. I had wonderful role models who valued books and right from the beginning it was love at first sight. I remember my mother reading Dr. Seuss’, “Are You My Mother” which I read to my own children and have on my bookcase today. I sometimes pick it up and I can still feel a soulful connection to the little bird’s search for his mother. As a child, the joy, suspense and exhilaration of his journey touched me. I wanted more and never looked back.

On rainy days, I would huddle under the table with “Heidi.” Though I haven’t picked that book up in years, I loved the relationship she had with her grandfather. I can still taste the warm, oozing cheese sandwiches he made her. Literature connected me to children like me, who lost a parent. I was no Scout Finch growing up, a tomboy and fearless, but I found a soul mate in Scout one of “To Kill A Mockingbird’s” great characters. I admired her tenacity and belief in justice. On those same pages, I fell for the mysterious Boo Radley, friending Boo should be a prerequisite for all children so they learn not to judge others too harshly. Atticus Finch became my hero and since Gregory Peck played him in the movie, he still is.

I cried when Francie Nolan lost her flawed but beloved father. Betty Smith made the streets of Brooklyn come alive in “A Tree Grows In Brooklyn.” In the English countryside, I worried about the ever curious Pip, who graced the pages of one of the Dickens best works of fiction, “Great Expectations.” As he grew, I became empathetic for his pining for Estella. To top that off, I feel I wouldn’t be the same without an introduction to Miss Havisham, the quintessential jilted lover, who refused to move on. As an eleven-year-old I was fascinated by the cobwebs and rotting bridal cake. I spent countless days wondering if Heathcliff was going to marry Catherine in “Wuthering Heights” and fretting over Jane Eyre and Rochester’s hidden wife in the attic.

From these pages, I learned about myself and spent time pondering each characters’ flaws and feelings. This is what children are missing if they’ve never whiled away an afternoon with a great book. It is terrifying that the reading rates are sloping downward. It’s like being undernourished. Reading makes us human, confirmed by studies that have indicated that reading makes children more empathetic, while many of the connections kids have today are dehumanizing. Though the digital world offers up many positives, much of what kids are engaging in have no intrinsic value and can be summed up as shameless self-promotion. Great books are timeless and though times have changed, there will never be a time when kindness, compassion and empathy are not necessary ingredients to living a good life.

All is not lost, I thank J.K. Rowling for bringing Harry Potter into the world, although her books appeal to everyone they are especially wonderful for boys, who need more books to relate to. Words still hold the power for change and it only takes one good book to get hooked. Parents should not raise a white flag on this issue! Read, read, read and encourage your children to do the same!


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