I’ve just finished reading one of 10 essays from the 2012 book When I Was a Child I Read Books, by Marilynne Robinson. It was a no brainer for a literacy teacher, teacher educator and a contributor to a children’s library like myself to be drawn to a book with this title. However, I received this book as a gift quite some time ago and let it rest on a shelf before I picked it up.
The blessing and curse of being a reader of books is that there is always another book calling out for attention, and I’m the kind of reader that has several books going all the time. So, my lifelong dedication to influencing parents and educators to focus upon ensuring that their children love books and love to read speaks loudly to me. My interest is in sowing and nurturing the seeds of enduring appreciation of the mastery of artful communication, shared through print and image.
When children learn the independence and power of selecting their own books and reading them during abundant free time set aside or captured for specifically that, the chance that they will grow to become lifelong readers and thus lifelong learners increases.
Further, in being avid readers, children who have filled their brains with powerful language are positioned to become capable and perhaps even terrific writers as well. Having their minds and hearts opened to the powerful language of amazing language artists like Marilynn Robinson, Shel Silverstein, or Dr. Seuss, readers are impacted with their art and imprinted with the possibility of standing on the shoulders of these and other literary giants.
Clarity in the appreciation and use of such media is a uniquely human realm. That’s an education that prepares the student for a lifetime of productivity and success in nearly any discipline or endeavor.
So, returning to the title of the book that rests here beside me, I was in hopes of finding a kind of literacy treasure map to assist me in leading families and children forward in their admiration and hunger for the singular pleasure of opening a newly discovered book. Instead, I’ve found a clear celebration of the impact of a child’s book-enriched life on an amazingly talented, Pulitzer Prize winning author and essayist.
Marilynne Robinson read books! She invited their authors inside where she embraced them as they shaped her understanding of the world beyond where she sat or stood, leaving her with a universe of tools for observing, thinking, feeling and sharing with the rest of us.
While we’re still in this odd time of staying close to home and minimizing our contact with others, I implore you to look at this as a gift of time—abundant downtime and ample opportunities for children to casually select, read and discover the magic and power of books. Then, invite them to share their discoveries about life and their world, while you share yours.