This I Believe

Renee - Citrus Heights, California
Entered on April 30, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: creativity
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I believe in reading to children. It doesn’t matter what you read—just that you read. One of my fondest memories is of my mother reading a comic book to my little sister and me. It was “Little LuLu.” We loved how she would create a different voice for each character. We giggled at the extemporaneous song she made up when the story called for a song by the witch. I still remember it. It was just the way a witch would sound if a witch tried to sing a lullaby.

When my parents read to me, I could picture the events of the story better than if they’d been projected onto the ceiling of my very room. “The Highwayman,” as read by my father was a favorite. I could see “the road [as] a ribbon of moonlight” and the highwayman riding like a madman, “shrieking a curse to the sky.”

I enjoyed the stories. I enjoyed the warmth as we crowded together to see the pages. And I enjoyed the sound of my parent’s voices. Sometimes I watched my parents, but usually I watched the words on the pages. Eventually the words began to make sense to me.

Carl Sandburg describes learning to read in just this way:

“One of the most vivid early memories of my life is that first home Bible. It was the first book that dawned on my mind as a book, as a thing made of paper and on the paper black marks your eye could pick off from the page and you could say the words that lay there on the paper.” (Always the Young Strangers New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1953, p. 58)

When adults read to children, reading becomes as natural to them as speaking. My father used to say that there was little difference between those who can’t read and those who don’t read. When children see that adults enjoy reading, they will enjoy reading.

In my house the TV literally took a back seat to books. One day when the TV quit working, Dad carried it out to the car and put it in the trunk, intending to take it in for repairs. We drove around with that TV in the trunk for months until mom finally remembered to take it to the repair shop.

When my own children were small, they would sometimes ask for the same story over and over again until I could recite it. Yet they always laughed in the same places and got excited in the same places. When I saw my daughter line up her toys on her bed and read to them, I knew the books had worked their magic. Now that I have grandchildren, I never visit without bringing a book.

When we read to children, they learn that reading is worthwhile, and they learn that they are worthwhile. That’s why I believe in reading to children.