The Gift of Reading…

As someone who taught high school English for thirty-five years, I know the value of reading and the joy or sorrow it can bring to students of all reading levels.

My first motivation to read came from my parents. When I was only two years old, they began a ritual of reading to me at bedtime, taking turns each night. This habit made bedtime a pleasure for me and then for my younger brother and sister. Bedtime stories read aloud became things we looked forward to and provided a peaceful bond between us and our parents. After I reached the age of two,  Mom and Dad took us to the public library, where we were able to choose books in the children’s section. At that early age, I began by picking books for the pictures and then for the stories. Next my parents would ask us to tell the stories based upon what we remembered of the books, often using illustrations as guides. Then came the words we began to recognize and repeat.

Dad said that if we liked books, we need never be bored or feel lonely. That wisdom was proven true over and over again as I was growing up and is still as accurate as it ever was when I was a child. On every summer trip we took with us in our station wagon a selection of books to read en route.  I will always be grateful to my parents for hooking me and my siblings on reading. A new book to read was the one thing we were never denied as kids. There might not always have been money for new bikes, but there was always money for new things to read. My brother David, my sister Connie Lynn, and I could often be found curled up in a cozy corner with books we loved. Winnie the Pooh, The Wind in the Willows, Charlotte’s Web, Dr. Seuss, Rudyard Kipling, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Aesop’s Fables were among these.

My grandparents bought us the Young Folks Shelf of Books, a set of ten volumes published in the 1940’s by Collier. There were earlier and later editions of these books, but I still have the ones given to us when I was still in diapers.

When I taught high school, I tried hard to find books that interested each kid, even though we also had a roster of books in the required reading curriculum. I knew that once a kid found a book he or she loved, a life could be changed forever.

It saddens me at times to see kids constantly using their thumbs to text mind-numbing and uncreative messages instead of challenging themselves with good books. I was delighted by the Harry Potter revolution. I still love seeing teenagers and younger kids carrying books that are their own choices, books that enrich as well as entertain. We can all be sensitized and made better by reading. It’s a private joy but also one that can be shared in our discussions of why we liked what we have read as we pass on books to friends and relatives. It doesn’t matter if the book is old with yellow pages that smell of the distant past or electronic Kindle Readers. Reading is a window to enhance our curiosity and sense of wonder about everything around us. I urge all the parents out there to make reading a pleasure you share with your kids. They will be forever enriched by it and grateful for your loving efforts.   JB

About John

John Bolinger was born and raised in Northwest Indiana, where he attended Ball State University and Purdue University, receiving his BA and MA from those schools. Then he taught English and French for thirty-five years at Morton High School in Hammond, Indiana before moving to Colorado. He spends his winters in Pompano Beach, Florida. Besides COME SEPTEMBER, Journey of a High School Teacher, John's other books are ALL MY LAZY RIVERS, an Indiana Childhood, and COME ON, FLUFFY, THIS AIN'T NO BALLET, a Novel on Coming of Age, all available on Amazon.com as paperbacks and Kindle books. Alternately funny and touching, COME SEPTEMBER, conveys the story of every high school teacher’s struggle to enlighten both himself and his pupils, encountering along the way, battles with colleagues, administrators, and parents through a parade of characters that include a freshman boy for whom the faculty code name is “Spawn of Satan,” to a senior girl whose water breaks during a pop-quiz over THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS. Through social change and the relentless march of technology, the human element remains constant in the book’s personal, entertaining, and sympathetic portraits of faculty, students, parents, and others. The audience for this book will certainly include school teachers everywhere, teenagers, parents of teens, as well as anyone who appreciates that blend of humor and pathos with which the world of public education is drenched. The drive of the story is the narrator's struggle to become the best teacher he can be. The book is filled with advice for young teachers based upon experience of the writer, advice that will never be found in college methods classes. Another of John's recent books is Mum's the Word: Secrets of a Family. It is the story of his alcoholic father and the family's efforts to deal with or hide the fact. Though a serious treatment of the horrors of alcoholism, the book also entertains in its descriptions of the father during his best times and the humor of the family's attempts to create a façade for the outside world. All John's books are available as paperbacks and Kindle readers on Amazon, and also as paperbacks at Barnes & Noble. John's sixth and most recent book, Growing Old in America: Notes from a Codger was released on June 15, 2014.
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