“Look at me! Look at me! Look at me now! It is fun to have fun, but you have to know how.”
Oh, how my Grandpa Cam could bring that genius The Cat in the Hat to life. I did not even need to look at the book; he read the Dr. Seuss masterpiece to me so many times when I was a child, I could close my eyes and see the glorious illustrations. Something tells me that Cam Albin could probably recite that book.
I was the second of 23 grandkids; my mother was the second of his nine children. If there is one shared memory among the majority of us, it is most definitely Cam’s not-always-reserved-for-bedtime stories.
I mention this because, along with colon cancer and frozen foods awareness, March is National Reading Month.
It seems so strange that we need a month to remind us to read. It seems as though it would be impossible to make it through a day without reading. But Facebook posts, celebrity gossip and political rants seem to make up the majority of our reading material anymore. Grandpa Cam is probably sitting somewhere with Dr. Seuss, shaking his head.
According to the National Education Association (NEA), the best way to get kids interested in reading is to read to them. I believe it. Everyone in my family reads. A lot. When I was a kid, I blew through every book series out there: The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, The Happy Hollisters. (What were they so happy about, anyway? Maybe someone read to them.)
I read Wuthering Heights and Great Expectations in two weekends. But, I don’t read like I used to. Odds are, neither do you. The NEA reports that while nearly 70 percent of middle school kids read ten or more books a year, that number drops to less than 50 percent by high school. Ten books add up to less than one book a month. Am I the only one who finds this sad?
If you’re reading this right now, then reading to a kid could not be all that hard. Because this is National Reading Awareness Month, chances are good that your children’s school – or your neighborhood school, if you don’t have kids – is having reading events all month long. Chances are, you can volunteer to read to a whole class full of kids.
They’ll interrupt you, maybe they’ll fidget, or whisper; but they will be so happy you are there. Sadly, only about 50 percent of kids report that a family member reads to them. The simple act of reading to a child will improve their performance in school, and will help them learn their letters and numbers.
I could keep throwing statistics at you, ad infinitum, but the best reason to read to a kid is this: You will give them a priceless gift that last will last a lifetime. Each time I pick up a book, whether it details the misadventures of a cat wearing a top hat, or the moment of clarity experienced by a fellow named Sam trying insistently to turn down a meal of perfectly good green eggs and ham, I can still hear that voice. “You find magic wherever you look. Sit back and relax. All you need is a book.” This floods my mind with colorful pages, and my heart with memories that touch my soul.