An Associated Press article in the Tennessean yesterday announced that one in four adults in the United States didn't read a single book last year. And of the adults who did read a book last year, most only read four or five, total.
Man, that made me really sad. Both on a personal level--I love to read so much and can't imagine not doing it--and on a larger, societal level--how are people learning? I know, I know, I have friends who don't read much. Too busy, not interested, other hobbies and interests, etc. etc. I guess I so frequently have my nose buried in a book that I just can't imagine going months on end without even picking up a book, let alone finishing one and sighing with a big round "ahhhh." Reading has always been my first hobby. You know how it is when you love, say, a movie so much that you can't imagine how anyone could not also love it? It's sort of like that with me and reading. I can't not read. I read the backs of cereal boxes. I read toothpaste tubes. I have to read the paper if I'm eating my cereal at the breakfast table. It's just what I do.
So I knew before William was even born that I was going to make a concerted effort to persuade him to love books and to love reading. My mother patiently read an ocean of books to me as a child. Little Bear, Harry the Dirty Dog, you name it. When I got old enough to read on my own, she humored my interests and bought me books by my current favorite authors (Carolyn Haywood, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Maud Hart Lovelace) or on a favorite topic (ballet, ghost stories). My dad read Jack London's "The Call of the Wild" to my brother and me at bedtime over the course of a few weeks one year. I remember sitting on my brother's bed and puzzling over the name of one of the characters: I didn't understand how "Francois" could sound like "Fran-swah." I saw my mother check out books at the library for her own enjoyment, and I saw all the books on the floor-to-ceiling shelves in my father's study. I was raised on books. My child would be raised on books.
And so far, so good. William often prefers to "play" with or "read" his books rather than almost anything else. Not that he doesn't love a good rousing game of "carry the chip clips all over the house" or "scatter puzzle pieces all over the living room" or "hide the coasters," but he does seem to love his books. Right now, he's very into all the touch-and-feel type books, the Maisy books, which have flaps, and oh yes, "Are You My Mother?" and "Go, Dog, Go." We must read "Go, Dog, Go." about 50 times each day, often four or five times in a row. And William and I have a deal: if I buy a book for myself at a bookstore, he gets one, too.
Some studies have shown that children who are raised by parents who read--and see their parents read--learn to read at an earlier age. I guess that it's good that I still read as much as I can find the time and energy for. I would do it anyway, so it's even better that I'm supposedly setting a good example. It's not that I'm reading high-brow literature all the time because I'm definitely not. But I do have a pretty wide range of interests, and I try to find books that at least occasionally address them. And yes, sometimes I bury myself in Harry Potter. And I'm still longing to buy myself a whole fresh set of the the Little House on the Prairie books, the ones I loved to tatters as a child. And I admit that I really do love discovering new books for William--and rediscovering old favorites, too. For every "But Not the Hippopotamus" (which if you don't have, you must must get), there is a "Pat the Bunny." They're all fun, especially when you're William and someone will read them to you over and over and over and over and over...
Like, for example, Mama Dee: