“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body” – Joseph Addison
It was a lazy Saturday afternoon and I looked up from the sofa in our den at the bookshelves. I was curious – just how many books do we have in the entire house?
The answer was 545…in seven different rooms. (Oops! Just found another. The count is now 546.)
They include Bibles, baseball books, paperbacks and old hard-covers, as well as children’s books that have lasted generations. (OK, Alice in Wonderland has lasted for generations; The Turkey that Ate My Father does not qualify.)
Other authors on the shelves include J.D. Salinger, Frank McCourt, Bernard Malamud, Mark Twain, Nora Ephron, P.D. James, Sinclair Lewis, Robert Parker, Alexander McCall Smith, Philip Roth, Harper Lee, Charles Shultz, Dr. Seuss and Woodward & Bernstein.
I have always loved to read, and I have my first-grade teacher Mrs. Hazel – and my parents – to thank.
I was born in southern Florida when there were no public kindergartens, so the first time I entered school I was six and in first grade. The first word we learned was “clock.” The letters C-L-O-C-K were placed right under…guess what? Two points for everyone who guessed a certain round object that tells time.
When I got home I was so excited, I went into my sister Sharon’s room and stood over her crib. I taught her to say ‘clock’ and spelled it for her. Family lore has it that later on Sharon talked so much everyone wished I’d never been her tutor. (Just kidding, Sharon.) But my parents also read to us on a regular basis, and that, I’m sure, is the reason all of us love reading.
I can’t read as much as I have in the past – particularly if the book is long, long-winded or complicated, because I often forget what happened in the chapter before. But I try to overcome that obstacle by reading fun detective stories and those which are fun and engaging. A dear friend recently sent me a book of short stories, which was a real hit. Others have recommended audio books, but to me, it doesn’t seem real unless you actually turn the pages and look at the written word.
The good news is, I not only love books, but reading is a great workout for the brain – for everyone. Reading is a lot like mental exercise, with the added benefit that it’s also enjoyable. Other benefits of reading include:
- Using your imagination.
- Learning new things.
- Gaining different perspectives.
- Expanding your vocabulary.
- And, if you want, improving your own writing skills.
- Finally, in my case, I believe my love of reading led to my love of writing, which led me into careers in journalism and public relations.
I was an avid reader as a child, but I often worry whether children spend enough time reading at home these days, or having parents, siblings or friends available to read to them. Many families don’t have time or resources for regular reading, and often classrooms are so full there’s little time for individual attention.
The good news is there are many efforts to help. The local YMCA, for instance, sponsors a reading program, and the president of my husband’s company has encouraged his team to read to needy students. Finally, our local library system has strong literacy programs – and they’re all free.
If you have the time, read to a child. You won’t regret it. And it could change their lives – and yours – forever.