The social and political climate in this country frightens me. It does not feel like people remember how to converse or dialogue. The abomination of Nazi book-burning haunts the edges of my mind and repugnance festers deep in my guts when I read Fahrenheit 451. I want to blame the current climate on a lack of reading that keeps minds small.
Books have always been a lifeline for me and I cannot imagine why they would not be for anyone else.
When my stepson came to live with us when he was 6 years old, he was not much of a reader. But he saw me reading every chance I got. His curiosity grew. We read together, talked about books, and eventually had mom-son library dates. The first time I took him to the library, I remember his eyes getting big, followed by a little “Woah!” It turned into a weekly excursion, with him reminding me on occasion about library day.
Realms of discovery
Stacks of adventure, shelves of things unknown, pages of curiosities just waiting for discovery. Rifling through books and new topics is like treasure hunting without a map, you never know what you’ll find. Browsing a library can introduce kids to wonders they never knew to ask about and widen their horizons.
Reading inspires exploration, curiosity, and critical thinking. When I was a kid, I spent my summers racking up points with the summer reading club, exploring the stacks for the next adventure. I would read about one thing, then wonder about something else and go back to find out more about that thing. As I grew older, I felt confident there was a book for whatever it was I wanted to know.
Reading takes you to places you might never experience in real life. I grew up in a small Midwest town with no diversity whatsoever. Part of the excitement about reading was I could explore other parts of the country or exotic places to get a feel for what life would be like somewhere else. I met characters who thought differently than I did, who experienced life in ways that contrasted to my own and followed divergent paths.
Rifling through books and new topics is like treasure hunting without a map, you never know what you’ll find.
These are the experiences kids need to develop inquiring, curious minds that seek understanding. The exploration of ideas gets kids asking questions and thinking about the why of things. Diverse thinking creates a world that looks for solutions instead of adversaries. Narrow or smallmindedness leads to the kind of behavior that supports the horrors that squash ideas and leads to the burning of books out fear for those ideas.
Free library resources
The best part about libraries is they are FREE! Not only are printed books in abundance, but most libraries now have e-books available with your library card. The libraries in my area use Overdrive and Libby, with most of the catalog available electronically as print or audiobook.
For a real trip, check out the Internet Archive that not only has free book borrowing, but also contains millions of audio, video, and film libraries. All free. Which means ANYONE can access it!
Of course, there are e-book and audiobook resources through Kindle, iBooks, and Scribd, often with free books available.
Scribd - Read books, audiobooks, and more
Access an unlimited* number of books, audiobooks, magazines, and more - all for only $9.99/month. *Access an unlimited…
With all this knowledge available, why aren’t we all reading like crazy and becoming super-geniuses?
When I read Natalia Forrest’s tips for reading more, the first thing I thought of was beating her 2019 total books read. I tapped into my summer-reading-club-child because I only read 107. Now I have a goal of 130 for 2020.
The second thing that flooded my brain was a battle cry urging parents to engage their kids with their local library!
- Send them to the library after school.
- Set a regular library excursion date complete with treats afterward.
- Participate in the programs offered all year long.
- Start a reading contest at home if they don’t have one at the library.
- Don’t allow screen time until they read a chapter or two.
- Listen to audiobooks on family trips.
- Invite your kids to read to you or have a family reading night where you take turns reading to each other.
- Engage in a family drama where you each take parts of a play to read and act out.
- Find books about the movies, television, or characters your kids like. Just as one example, it’s unreal how wide and complex the Star Wars universe is — so much happens in print! Or Halo? I don’t play the game, but the books are great!
- Come up with a topic the whole family wants to learn more about, research it individually and share it.
- Look for books about your next vacation spot to learn more about its history, geography, and culture.
Hope for the future
It’s up to us to inspire the next generation of readers and the best way to do that is by teaching how to engage with and love reading.
My greatest joy was seeing my son choose a book over a screen. Given an example, time, and encouragement, yours will too.
Trudi Griffin, MS, LPC is a former therapist who uses clinical experience, faith, and extensive research in her writing. She is the content editor for Counter Culture Mom and editor for Koinonia. In her spare time, she reads, studies, sews, games, and loves spending time with God and her husband. Contact her at email@example.com.