An old, yellowed newspaper clipping is secured on my refrigerator with a magnet. It reads:
“You may have tangible wealth untold; caskets of jewels and coffers of gold. Richer than I you can never be — I had a mother who read to me,” from “The Reading Mother” by Strickland Gillilan in “The Read Aloud Handbook”
I put this quote on my refrigerator when I was pregnant with my first child, approximately 25 years ago. I learned if I read to my children before they were born, they would recognize my voice after they were born, and that was true.
Later, both my children would curl up in my lap and listen as I would read them stories about love, families and adventures of all sorts.
I have always had a love of reading, and it is not unusual for me to be reading a few books at a time.
When I was 6 years old, a family friend gave me the book “Now We Are Six,” by A.A. Milne. The book contains a selection of poems about the adventures of Christopher Robin and Winnie-the-Pooh. I would read two of the poems frequently to my boys, and when they each turned 6, they received a personalized copy of the book.
Whenever the boys were not feeling well, I would read the poem “Sneezles,” about Christopher Robin being sick in bed and another poem “Forgiven,” about forgiving his Nanny for mistakenly letting his pet beetle out.
Recently, a co-worker and I were searching for the name of a favorite children’s book for another co-worker. We remembered the plot, which was a number of animals curled up in a boy’s lost mitten to stay warm on a cold winter day. We said this was a must-have story for her young son. The book, by the way, is “The Mitten” by Jan Brett.
I enrolled both my sons in the summer reading program at the Allentown Public Library South Branch — then located on Emmaus Avenue. One son could read on his own, and the other picked out books that I would read to him.
Knowing how hard it was to interest students in reading over the summer, the library created a program where they would reward students for the books they read.
My children were excited and motivated to read the books because of the prizes they won. Prizes were donated by area businesses. The library offered crafts, special guests and a variety of entertainment to draw the readers into the library.
One year, as the summer reading program was ending, we realized the day to redeem points for prizes was the same day my oldest would be at summer Scout camp. He was beside himself, thinking the one-of-a-kind prizes he had worked so hard for would be taken by someone else. After gaining approval from the library, he was told I could go in his place with list in hand and redeem his points. I was given instructions, multiple times, how I was to “get there early and be the first in line when the door opens” so I could secure his prizes (which I did).
Years later, when the south branch of the library closed due to lack of funding, we began visiting the Emmaus Public Library, usually at the eleventh hour when my son had a report due and the needed book was in his locker. Reading for my oldest son was no longer something he was interested in. My younger son also lost interest in reading, and it became a chore to read books for his honors English class.
I discussed my dilemma with then children’s librarian at EPL, the late Martha Vines, who told me to bring my son to her.
We met at the library and Vines told me to “go away and find something to do” while she and my son went in search of books that would spark his interest. I overheard her take the time to ask my son questions regarding his interests — did he like mysteries, fiction, etc. They picked a series of books, which he finished, but neither son has reignited the reading bug they had when they were younger.
Vines once told me her boys were the same way and that I shouldn’t lose hope — both her boys became avid readers later in life.
I encourage families to take their children to the library for the summer reading program “Libraries Rock!” Our local libraries have planned many programs and activities to get the children interested in reading. The librarians will find the books that will interest the students; they know the new and old books available. And the best news — the library is free.
As parents, we not only set an example, but we plant the seeds of a love of learning for our children. When children see us get excited about a new reading adventure, they want to be a part of it.
Our local librarians share the love of reading and learning and are more than willing to share their excitement with you and your family.
Take advantage of this wonderful opportunity and know that if you do so, you may have children who will count themselves as “among the rich” because of you.
East Penn Press