THE GURU NEXT DOOR
The Montclair Public Library Foundation is throwing a free read-aloud marathon called The Little Read. On October 2,3 and 4th, at the Montclair Public Library at 50 South Fullerton Ave., and several other sites, children from preschool age to 5-years old will gather to be read aloud to by volunteers. The Foundation is even offering a 7-9 pm bedtime session with milk and cookies served. They are expecting 200 volunteers to share in the reading.
I love this program and anything that fosters the love of books. Knowing how to read is the springboard to knowledge and expression, a prerequisite to survival. Literacy makes us part of the conversation in whatever way we choose. Helping others to read and sharing reading with others can be a very special experience.Because of my mother, among others, I grew up loving books. I will always be grateful for that. My mother loved to read. She was never without a book. In the memory of my mind's eye, I can see her reading, always reading.
It didn't matter what she was reading — it happened to always be the latest novels. But her love of reading was a constant in our lives. Not just her love of it. But her daily practice of it, embedded in all the other daily practices of her life and our lives. Being a mom, keeping the house clean, keeping us clean, cooking us nutritious meals and making sure we ate them, teaching us manners, sending us to school, reading, reading and reading.
I don't remember my mother reading aloud to us. Thankfully, there was plenty of reading aloud in school and I loved it. What I do remember vividly is the Saturday afternoons at the public library, deposited in the children's section while she scouted for the latest novel. I loved those library afternoons. I can still remember the smell and feel of the books, the special quiet that libraries have, the thrill of picking out my own book to take home. And all the birthdays where she always made me a present of a book. How I loved that. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Madeline, Misty of Chincoteague. It was Nirvana to me before I knew what it meant.
Do you love to read? What do you love about it? I love to read to find out things, but most important, I love reading to find out about myself. The greatest books are the ones that allow me to do that; that leave me room to imagine, go into myself with the nut of a new realization and emerge a happier and richer person. Whether it's fiction or non-fiction, escapist or educational, as a reader and a writer, that is what drives me to books.
Opening doors. Having the conversation. Continuing the journey.
Stories expand our world
As readers, we all start with storybooks and for many of us it's the beginning of a lifelong passion. It's wonderful to read to children and watch their reaction to a story. But even when we're grown, we are still able to step into the inner life of a story, as if it were actually happening. Even if the characters aren't real, or even human; even if we know the situation is made up; we can forget that as we fasten our seatbelts and go along for the ride.
That's one of the reasons why stories can be such a powerful vehicle for personal growth and development. All our lives, we use the experiences of others to help us decide who we want to be – how we want to think – what we want to believe.
Being able to read is like having a ticket to a parallel universe – richly populated with an ever-changing cast of characters to observe and learn from. The more diverse those characters are, the more fertile the ground from which to grow our choices.
And we do choose. When we are growing up, we absorb the beliefs of some and reject the beliefs of others. Certainly, as very young children, when we are forming our beliefs and attitudes, characters in a story (and the story itself) can play a major role in the development of our personalities. They can vie for our hearts and minds right along with those who are directly responsible for guiding and shaping our development.
Do you remember stories and characters that you accepted or rejected as a child? I distinctly did not like Grimm's fairy tales with their witches and endangered children. I was skeptical of their happy endings, which required magic and enchanted beings.
On the other hand, I loved Dick and Jane, which was very popular in the schools when I was a child. I was addicted to them for years. You may remember them: "See Spot run", "Look, Dick, look." They were like the Seinfeld of children's books in that very little happened. And they were decidedly straight, with Dad in his suit and Mom in her pretty dress protected by an apron. A grandma who always had a fresh pie cooling on the window sill.
The fact that they were nothing at all like my family didn't keep me from identifying with them. Reading Dick and Jane probably did not add a lot of words to my vocabulary but it gave me a vision of safety, security and happiness that I was searching for in the world.
Dick and Jane helped me believe it existed, even if my home life didn't exactly match up.
Would it have been better if I had been spared the Grimm Brothers and given more Dick and Jane type stories? Not for a minute. Fairy tales were like the antithesis of Dick and Jane – scary, uncertain, and magical. They served a purpose, inspiring my imagination and giving me another perspective. Even if I didn't love it, looking back, I'm so glad I had the choice.