Remember that slogan, “Reading is Fundamental?” Actually, it is the name of the largest non-profit literacy organization in the United States. For 50 years, its goal has been to provide children with books of their own so that they will value reading and life-long learning.
Fortunately, my mother was a one-woman “book pusher” in my family. One of my earliest memories is one of sitting on my mother’s lap, with a brother on each side, and having my mom read to us. They were mostly Golden Books, which dates my childhood back to the late 40’s and early 50’s. As my mother would read, I would memorize what she was saying and then read the book back to her. She was astounded. I think I actually learned to memorize before I learned to read, but because my mother read books to me, I became an avid reader long before I entered kindergarten in 1950.
Reading has always been a joy to me. It was a way to learn about the world beyond my neighborhood in Chicago. It was also a way to find out information on any topic that crossed my imagination. I can remember a few times in grammar school when my reading ability wasn’t exactly welcomed by my teachers. Whatever subject we were learning in school, I would go home and look up additional information in our encyclopedia. If the information didn’t agree with what my teacher was telling the class, I would bring the encyclopedia to school and proudly announce to her where she went wrong. I certainly didn’t win too many points for that.
My love of reading got me my first job. I think I had read every book in our small neighborhood library at Christopher Settlement House by the time I was 15. In fact, I used to ask the librarian to order books that I wanted to read. When she was leaving this part time joy, she recommended that I be offered the position. She told the director that I knew every book in the library and could easily learn the rest of the job. So I started working 3-5, Monday through Friday, for $1.00 per hour. The library was mine, and I was even able to order books!
One of the joys I have had in life was to introduce my children to reading. And not just my own kids, but others as well. When I was pastor of a parish in a lower income area, one of my favorite outreach programs was to ask parishioners to bring in children’s books so that we could distribute them to kids at our local school. Believe it or not, the books we gave the children for Christmas were often the first books that some of the kids had ever owned.
Over the years I have also belonged to several book clubs, and it seemed like the members always became fast friends because we all shared a love of reading. Its not everyone who understands why you would stay up all night to finish a good book because you just couldn’t put it down. I can remember as a young child taking a flash light and reading under the covers at night when I was supposed to be sleeping. And as a young mom, I recall staying up all night to finish a book because I wouldn’t have time to read during the day with several toddlers and infants in the house.
That’s why its been so hard for me to give up reading this past week. Because I suffered a mild concussion in a car accident, I’m supposed to limit my screen time (computer, iPhone, television) and even reading print books if my eyes feel strained. Give up books!?! Impossible. Most of the time I am reading several at the same time…usually a spiritual book, a book club selection. a history book, maybe a travel book, and perhaps a few magazines or paperback novels.
Giving up television was easy, but books…. My stash sits there waiting for me to feel better again. And even my blogging has taken a hit. I’m going to post this quick before I succumb to the temptation to endlessly edit this blog as my allotted screen time is beyond up.
So if you get a chance, read a good book for me today! And think about donating some books to your local library, or better yet to your nearest elementary school. You could be the person that changes a child’s life by giving them their first book. After all, reading is fundamental.