When a new baby is on the way, everyone in the family gets excited and begins to make plans. We want the baby to be warm and dry and to have a soft and safe place to sleep. We also want him to have beautiful clothes to wear. All of these things are important, but don’t forget to read to your child, and begin reading WITH him the day that he is born.
It is not enough to stick a book in your baby’s bed or in his play pen. That is very much like propping a bottle in Baby’s mouth and walking out to do the dishes. Although the baby will get the same vitamins and minerals from a propped bottle as he will from one from Mom, he will not get another equally important part of feeding time–the opportunity to bond with his caregivers. The same thing could be said about reading.
Anyone who knows me will attest to the fact that I have a great deal of imagination and a sense of magic about myself. I am a visual artist, as well as a writer. Because William Blake wrote and illustrated the Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience, I wrote my master’s thesis about him and his work. William Blake literally preached the importance of cultivating the imagination, and he said that the death of the imagination is a spiritual death, after which the survivor is sentenced to a Wasteland existence in an emotion-less Hell. I am 66-years-old, and I have watched many people wither from their lacks of imagination. In my opinion, those people are truly old.
I am thoroughly convinced that I became an artist and a writer soon after I was born. Although my family lived in a tiny, rural cotton-growing community, my mother bought the Better Homes and Garden Storybook, which was published in 1950, the year that I was born. From before I can even recall it, my mother read to me about the Little Red Hen and the Owl and the Pussy-Cat, who “danced by the light of the moon.” My life’s mantra has long been: “to dance by the light of the moon,” and like my friend the Cow, to jump completely over that same moon.
In his acceptance for the Nobel Peace Prize, William Faulkner spoke about the importance of the spirit, which I believe is either fostered or broken in early childhood:
“I believe that man will not merely endure: he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet’s, the writer’s, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past.”
A man’s spirit or lack of spirit is carved during his early childhood. Reading to a child is an invaluable way to cultivate a child’s spirit.
1,000 Books before Kindergarten is a new program that is sweeping the country, and as the Children’s Librarian in my community, I launched the program in Linwood, NJ, today. There are many free materials for parents everywhere to participate in the program wherever you are Here.
I don’t believe that anyone would argue with the fact that beginning to read to a young child will increase his intelligence, but I want to propose another reason to read WITH your child: It is the way to build his heart.
The bonding time during reading is important for many reasons, not the least of which is that this is a way that babies learn to associate reading with love.
©Jacki Kellum July 19, 2016