March 2, 2021

There’s Nothing in the World Like a Really Good Book

I am the youngest of four children, and we are all within 5 and ½ years of each other. My brother is the oldest, and I have two sisters in between him and me. I remember when they all were in “real school,” and I was left behind in preschool at Avalon Montessori School. I really wanted to read. I knew my alphabet and some sight words, but that was not the same as reading. At bedtime, my older sisters would read to me. My favorite book was Robert the Rose Horse by Joan Heilbroner.

I would request it to be read to me every night. Eventually, I was able to “read” it for myself. I remember distinctly going to my parents and announcing to them that I could read; finally, I could read like everyone else. I climbed up into my father’s lap and proceeded to read Robert the Rose Horse to him from front to back. He was delighted “the baby can read” and requested an encore! I read it again. After the second reading, my father, who was so impressed, gave me the newspaper he had been reading and asked me to read just below the fold. It was only then that I realized that I could not actually read.

Following this tragic discovery, my sisters embarked on a program to teach me to read, and within a few months, I could read all of the Dr. Seuss books on our shelf and the newspaper, with some help. Learning to read was a true inflection point in my life. I no longer needed to wait on other people to enjoy a book. I could help with grocery shopping, I learned to use a map, and I could help navigate on car rides. Eventually, I was given the job of alphabetizing things in my parents’ business, for which I was paid a few dollars a week. Reading, in many ways, felt like the beginning of everything. It sparked my love of learning and made so many things possible.

In contrast, I remember teaching my children to read using the BOB books. Like me, they both attended a Montessori school and developed solid foundations in phonics. Both of them were delighted as they progressed from needing help to reading on their own. Just last evening, I found my son sitting up, well past bedtime, engrossed in a book. It was with great reluctance that I turned off his light, reminding him of his chemistry exam. This morning, I found him again lying in his bed with the same book, trying to get to the end before online school started up. It is wonderful to see him, sitting in front of his computer, reading a real hardback book when he could be playing a game or on Discord with friends.

There is just nothing in the world like a really good book. With all of the highly accessible entertainment that we now have, it is easy to forget the experience of being transported by the written word. There is absolutely nothing like bringing a book to life in your mind’s eye, being surprised after hours invested that the ending is not what you thought it would be, and reading the final page—wishing you had slowed down and savored the final chapter a little longer, praying for a sequel, or that at least you find another book that is as good.

If you have not done it in a while, I encourage you to turn off your phone, close your computer, get your hands on a real book, and read it from cover to cover—you can thank me later!

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