If you know me, you know I absolutely adore books. I love the written word. I love getting lost in the written word. I love the feeling I get from reading, even if that feeling is of frustration or anger at the writer (if I’m involved enough in a story to get upset, then the author’s done something right — they made me CARE!).
My mom gave me the second greatest gift of all when she taught me to read. The first gift, obvs, was love. But even if she hadn’t loved me, I’d still have reading. And reading is power.
A good story will draw you in. It will make you FEEL. It will make you forget the real world for a while. It will open your mind. A good story will open your heart. It will take you to places that only exist in the imagination. It will help develop your imagination. And, dare I say, a good story will inspire you to reach for the stars, and beyond.
There are no goals without imagination, without dreams or dreaming. How do you learn to dream, to believe something is possible if not for the stories other people tell?
I often ask kids about their favorite books. I ask them what they like about the story and the characters. Many kids tell me how they’re inspired by the ideas set forth in the books they read. They tell me how the story could continue, what adventures the characters might find in a new chapter (or seven!). When a kid can tell you what they’d like to have happen next? Well, my friends, that’s magic! That’s imagination. That’s the sign of a child whose brain has been engaged. And that’s a big win in my (pardon/no pardon the pun) book.
Whether our children are reading physical books or on an electronic device, WE ARE WINNING! They’re learning. If their minds are engaged in reading, they’re developing tools they’ll need to become whoever they dream they can be. Because, and here’s the secret, when they read, they can become the characters in the stories, if only for a while. And if they can do that for a while, they begin to believe it’s possible more and more often…in real life. That astronaut in the book? That could be me! That brave knight/princess in the story? That could be me! The character who just discovered a new tribe or animal? Me! Even when the author includes a physical description of a character, while you’re reading, that description falls away and you begin to inhabit the character. If you were to close your eyes in the middle of the tale, your face is the one you’d see if the character looked in the mirror. That’s the power of reading, of imagination. That’s how you start teaching kids to dream.
When I was little, I loved stories that inhabited colorful lands full of colorful characters. Dr. Seuss knew what he was doing. Sneeches, with or without stars upon thars, were fun playmates on days I was kept inside. Or maybe one of the twenty-twenty Daves would come by to save…the day from absolute boredom while stuck in my cave. Chances are, the Cat in the Hat would also stop by, if only to help me find trouble to squeeze out of by the lash of an eye.
As I got a bit older, Trixie Belden became my muse. With her and the Bobwhites, I solved neighborhood mysteries that no one else could have solved. I traveled with her, laughed with her, cried with her. When I felt lonely, Trixie was there for me.
Always, always have a book. When you’re watching TV, have a book to read during commercials. Going to the doctor? Take a book. Got a lot of books and spend a lot of time at the doctor’s like I do? Ask if you can bring in a few to start a lending library. Old magazines will only last so long.
As soon as possible, get a child their own library card. Make the library or bookstore a regular part of your week. Investing in a child’s mind is investing in the possibilities of their future. Let them become invested, too, as they tell you what they’ve read and what it means to them.
I know I’ve told the story many times of how Mojo would walk into walls because her nose was stuck in a book. And how LD was potty trained with the help of book on dolphins, porpoises, and whales. He was so proud the day he was allowed to take that book everywhere he wanted because he was finally out of diapers. And let’s not forget how my kids would do their chores or finish dinner because their reward was a trip to the library or bookstore!
As my kids grew up, people would give them gift cards for Borders or Barnes & Noble so they could choose their own gifts. Instead of ONE present, they ended up with many. And they were the kind of gifts that kept giving because they turned out to be creative, thoughtful, and funny people. Had they only had TV or video games, I doubt I’d be saying the same (or I’d be lying about them).
I don’t know where I’d be if not for the books I read as a kid. I don’t know where I’d be if not for the books I read as an adult. I do know I’d never have dared to dream of becoming a nurse if I hadn’t read books about candy stripers and nurses. I’d have never dreamed of being a photographer, either. I wouldn’t be passionate about wildlife if not for reading “Born Free” or even “Misty of Chincoteague”. That’s how powerful the written word can be.
I wish you a very happy World Book Day today — and every day! May the book be with you.
* Inspired by Definitely Dreaming