Why do I read?

Encouraging reading in youthPaula reading to Mike c

I don’t remember a time without books. They were a part of my day, every day, stretching back into memory. In this photo I am reading to my brother, two years younger than me. Since he looks about two in this photo, I was reading this to him before I started school — probably as a four-year old. I don’t know if I was telling the actual story from words, or had memorized it, or was guessing from the photos, but the important thing is that at a very young age I understood that there were exciting stories in books, and that reading unlocked those stories for us.

Once school started we had assignments – to read a new book every day. I continually worked my way through the libraries at home and at school, and of course at our public library where we proudly held our own library cards as soon as we were old enough to write our names. I remember many times when I was engrossed in a book and my parents had to get my attention to come eat supper, because I didn’t hear anything while I was reading a story.

I could only do that because my parents read to me. Reading before bed was a frequent ritual even after we were readers. Mom would choose somethingreading with mom above our reading level and continually challenge us with that content. Some of these were Bible stories, some were Reader’s Digest Condensed Books, which were a great way for kids to hear classics before we were ready for the full dose.

When we were ready for the full dose, the classic books were already old friends.

My family treasured books. I remember my first hardback books — Yertle the Turtle and Little Women.  We didn’t have a lot of money, but we always found ways to have lots of books, of all different genres, on our shelves in the living room, the bedrooms, the family rooms.

We did  have television, even though these vintage photos don’t make that obvious. We enjoyed a few shows. But mostly our imagination was stoked by what we read. And we never stopped reading. My brother has a memory that lets him remember everything he has ever read. I don’t have that same memory, so I even re-read my favorites from time to time.

I copied this same technique with my own daughter, who is also an avid reader in adulthood.

 

All my life…the joy of reading

I believe that we are prepared to do whatever it is we decide to do in life, by the many events and circumstances of our lives.

I am one of the lucky people with a decent childhood memory, aided by the many photos my dad took as we were growing up. See if these are telling…

That is Mom reading to my sister Karen on the right. She directs a literacy center in Central California.

The two on the left, my brother Michael and I, are both authors.

Books were always a part of my life. I read voraciously — literally worked my way through series after series and read everything that I could lay my hands on. When my fifth grade teacher had us keep track she was amazed to learn that I read a couple of books a day most days. My parents encouraged this, allowing us to read as soon as our homework was done. We didn’t read at the table, but they were patient with us when we were slow to finish a chapter…

And we have passed that love of reading on. My dog Ollie goes to the library almost every week, where children read out loud to him.

Here is an excerpt from The Return Of Joy about reading dogs:

When Charity dropped to the floor next to Atlas and showed him one of the books, Mark laughed out loud.

“What’s so funny?”

“She’s reading to the dog,” he pointed out.

“She’s been doing that for a couple of weeks, Mark.” So proud of both the girl and the dog she could hardly stand it, Joy grinned. “Josie has a therapy dog who listens to kids read at a local library. She helped us make sure Atlas could do the same.” Joy pulled a paper out of the pile of presents on the table. “Atlas passed his test. All we need is your permission to send everything in, and he can be an official therapy dog, too.”

Looking confused, Mark scratched his head. “A therapy dog? He’s just… you know, a family dog.”

Joy smiled and stepped closer to Mark. She patted his chest.

“I know he is your dog. That’s why we won’t pursue this if you don’t want to.” She turned and slid an arm around his waist. “But look at them. They’re so happy reading together.”

Mark looked, shaking his head. “He’s just lying there. He isn’t even looking at the pictures.”

“That’s what Charity said the first time. Then Josie explained he likes to listen to her tell the story. Charity can’t actually read yet, of course, but she’s learning to share, to decipher from the pictures, and turn the pages. You should see Josie’s dog, Zoey, at the library, surrounded by children from toddlers through about second grade. They all crowd around and pet her, and take turns reading to her.”

“So if you send in Atlas’ paperwork and he becomes a therapy dog, what does that mean, exactly?”

“It means I can volunteer with him at a local school or library, where kids will do just what Charity’s doing now. Read out loud to the dog.”

“And they don’t realize he doesn’t understand?”

“Nope.” Joy chuckled. “You should have seen Atlas at his reading test. One little boy read a book about Little Pig Piglet, who couldn’t sleep. At the end of the story when he read that Little Pig Piglet finally fell asleep, Atlas flopped over on his side on top of the book as if he was falling asleep, too. So of course he must understand. He doesn’t really, of course, but the children are so excited about being the ones to read out loud, and the dogs are so non-judgmental, that they get better and better at reading when they read to a dog. And the dogs never correct them, I might add.”

Mark seemed skeptical.

“I guess you have to see it to understand.” She looked up into his eyes. “Josie had one boy who came in with his grandpa and told us he couldn’t read but would it be okay if he petted the dog? Josie said sure, of course, and he knelt down beside Zoey and began to talk to her, saying ‘Good dog. You’re a good dog.’ When we looked up at Grandpa he had tears in his eyes. I asked him if he was okay and he nodded and told us it was the first time his grandson had spoken in months – that he has autism and has difficulty talking to people. But not to the dog!”

Scroll down to the next post for a picture of Atlas.

Buy The Return of Joy at: http://stores.desertbreezepublishing.com/-strse-357/Starting-Over-Book-Two-cln-/Detail.bok