Reading Across the Generations
During the long days of summer, I always find a few extra hours for reading. At the hottest time of day, when a nap sounds wonderful, I slow down with a book or magazine in hand. Or as dusk is falling and the birds quiet down and the cicadas take over, I’ll wander other places with a good book.
In my family, books were a big deal. We sometimes had reading meals when we were allowed to read while we ate. We had bookcases full of them in our living room and in my father’s study, every wall held shelves and shelves of books. If I needed a certain volume for a research project, or if I had a question about current events, I would head down the stairs to his office. His answer to a knock on the door would let me know if I was welcome. A “Yes,” meant “I am at a good place. Please come in!” A “Uh...,” meant “”I am in the middle of something. Maybe come back later.” But, if I did get his undivided attention, he would listen to my request, scan the titles, and find at least two books related to the subject, often covering different viewpoints. Family vacations included a couple of book purchases, either at a secondhand bookstore in whatever town we were traveling through, or from a visit to a Museum or historical site. And, as an adolescent, I remember biking down the street to our town library to pick up the latest book in the series that I couldn’t read fast enough.
When it came my turn to parent, I followed my role models. As soon as my babies could grasp, I offered them books, and the words to go with them. As they got older, reading became a bedtime activity, and when the final page was read and the book closed, it was the signal to turn off the lights. During summer vacations from school, our two daughters would make a list of what they might like to do. I also made my own list for us, trying to include physical activity, creative play and what I called quiet time. After a week or so, we fell into a nice routine. We spent leisurely mornings. I worked in the kitchen or around the house, they worked with me or played at the table, or in their rooms, designing outfits for paper dolls, or drawing playing cards. Then, after a light lunch, we would walk to the library and check out armfuls of books to read and include in the Goshen Public Library’s summer reading program.
With my daughters, I would travel and experience many different cultures, human thoughts and emotions as we went through the piles of books on our living room floor. There was also art to look at, and words to learn, and worlds to understand. We read through poetry, and pictures and photos and fables and history and humor, always learning something about our human condition and knowledge. I loved holding books and turning pages, and sometimes being so gripped by a story that I couldn’t put the book down.
These days, whenever I travel, I always throw in a couple of books; some are for pure pleasure, others to expand my mind. I often try to link them to the place I am going to. Most recently, I have read about the southern African American experience and World War Two. But I’m always looking for the next one...Better World Books, here I come!