Reading Heroes

booksFebruary is “I Love to Read” Month.

I do love to read. And I don’t need a “Month” to inspire me to read. But maybe you do.

I was fortunate to be born to two parents who read; (they still do). Their parents were also readers. One of my early memories is my grandma reading the “funnies” from the newspaper to my siblings and me. She also read us Bible stories from a huge illustrated book. I still have that book.

I remember my dad reading a book to me about brownies (fairies, not Girl Scouts or desserts). I might not have remembered it but I read it myself when I was in Grade Three, and I realized it was the book Dad had read to me when I was only three or four.

My parents would regularly sit in the living room, each reading their own book. My mother often spent her meager pin money on books.

Up to Grade Five my teachers read books to the class in the few minutes after lunch each day. Among the most memorable were Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, the beginning of my enchantment with the words of Mark Twain.

The example of these influential readers probably entrenched reading habits in my life. Reading provided me with the best escape and a good excuse (sometimes) to delay doing my chores. (Parents want their children to read. Consequently I often got away with not setting the table the first time I was asked. “As soon as I finish this chapter!” I rarely got away with anything else, but reading trumped some chores!)

I read to my girls when they were pre-school aged. When they were older, during a tumultuous time in our family life, we had the habit of jumping into my bed to read a chapter or two together before lights out, even though they were perfectly capable of reading to themselves. My daughters still remember that we read Black Beauty together and the fun we had “reading” our big atlas.

My daughter began reading to my granddaughter the day she came home from the hospital. People thought she was crazy, reading to a newborn, but it paid off: at six months, my granddaughter was saying “no, no, no”, a line from her favourite book and she spoke in full sentences before she was a year old. I attribute her advanced language skills to all that reading.

Perhaps you haven’t had the advantage of heroes who showed you that reading is an integral and enjoyable part of your life. It’s never too late to start reading.

If you’re a parent, begin by reading to your children or grandchildren. You might choose short stories and then move up to longer novels. I recommend the classics, like the aforementioned, Black Beauty and Mark Twain books. Little Women, Jungle Book, The Chronicles of Narnia, Little House on the Prairie, Harry Potter are also worth reading with children. I’ve read or reread many of these titles as an adult and I enjoyed them all.

When you read with kids, you can help them learn vocabulary and grasp advanced ideas, which they might not be able to do on their own. Sometimes we didn’t read an entire chapter because the discussion of the concepts was more important than getting finished.

If you’ve not been a reader, you might enjoy starting with some of those so-called children’s books. Or if you are particularly interested in certain topics, you might choose books relating to that topic. It helps you stay the course much more easily than if you read something in which you have no interest or that is beyond your reading skill. (It will improve, I assure you.)

Schedule reading time. If you could devote an hour before bed each night to read, it’s probable that you would finish almost any book within a month, most likely in less time than that. You could go from reading no books to reading twelve each year, a huge improvement!

Carry a book with you. Our days are fraught with wasted time: waiting in line at the bank, waiting for your late lunch date, doctor’s waiting rooms, all prime reading opportunities. I generally read a “purse book” (I always have a book in my purse) each month.

Reading does not have to be a solitary activity. Joining a book club is a great way to find new reads you might not otherwise discover. It’s fun to share the experience of a good (or even a bad) book with others. Often your club members shed some new perspective on the book that can lead to some enlightening discussions.

You can have an informal book club with just one other person. I have a friend that likes to discuss certain books with me. My sister and I share good books.

Reading doesn’t have to be expensive. We all pay for libraries with our tax dollars. We have an obligation to use these valuable resources. (I gleaned this concept from a recent biography I read called The Billionaire Who Wasn’t. The subject, Chuck Feeney, who gave away his billions, hence the book title, believed libraries are to be used, regardless of your wealth).

Recently I’ve enjoyed the Calgary Public Library’s e-book section, presently carrying around 18,000 titles and growing. I can always find something interesting. Currently there is no charge to get a library card if you live in the City of Calgary. Download e-books to your tablet and voila, mobile reading!

The benefits of reading are legion. Increased knowledge, sharper vocabulary, and improved writing skills are just three benefits I’ve enjoyed because I read more. My understanding of the world seems clearer because I get the literary references that I used to miss. (I now understand what a Lolita is; I didn’t before I read the book, though I had heard the expression.)

If you read more you will be able to read more. When I started my serious reading journey I struggled to read a book a week. I now read three per week, fairly effortlessly, although I do prioritize reading. Someone suggested I’d have more time if I read fewer books. I felt like they suggested I stop breathing.

You don’t have to be as obsessive as I am to benefit from reading more books.

Read more because you will benefit and those around you will benefit, especially the children in your life.

Reading Month is a good time to begin.