Reading among free citizens in this country has become so out of favor that when Judy Schoonover of Hot Springs Village, Arkansas was forced by illness to put her bookstore up for sale, she couldn’t find a buyer. With the clock running out, she placed an ad on Craigslist offering her inventory of 30,000 books to whoever would haul them away.
Jumping at Schoonover’s offer was the Arkansas Department of Correction. Apparently our prisons, offering fewer distractions than life on the outside, harbor a population of readers.
One of the inmates helping with moving the books to their new home said it all:
I do a lot of reading now–more than I did when I was free. The more you read, the more it makes you want to read.
There’s a lesson here for parents.
The time to predispose your children to a love of reading is before they have the freedom to choose their own activities.
Surround them with books while you’re the one who determines how they spend their time.
Read to them. Not just “age appropriate” books, but selections from books for older children. Tell them about books they’ll want to read when they’re old enough. Mention specific titles like Black Beauty, Tarka the Otter, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Johnny Tremaine–any books you enjoyed as a child. Later, when the children are in a library, the titles will jump out at them.
Instill the idea that books are an alternate universe before your children get to school and are exposed to the idea that books and reading are hard, dull, uncool activities.
American culture is anti-intellectual. The message that reading is for fuddy-duddies, elitists, and misfits bombards us daily. Parents who don’t do something to counteract the message while their children are toddlers are making a grave mistake. If what you want for your offspring is true adult literacy, you must be the one to start them on the way.