I have been hearing echoes of my grandmother’s voice over the last couple days, reading, “I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them, Sam-I-am.”
If you have school-aged children or grandchildren, you probably know that this past Friday, March 2nd, was the birthday of the beloved author Dr. Suess and is a day in which educators and students, parents and children, celebrate reading all across America.
As I was recollecting some of my favorite Dr. Suess books from childhood, I couldn’t help but associate memories of my Grandma and Grandpa Messner with these stories. They would often watch my younger brother and me as my mom went to work as an LPN at the nearby nursing home. When the afternoon faded into evening, we often passed the time with story books. Some even had cassette tapes that I could listen to while I followed along in the book. My favorite Dr. Suess books included The Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham. But, my all-time favorite book that my grandma would read to me was The Five Chinese Brothers. Have you heard of this one? I highly recommend this far-fetched Chinese fable! The illustrations are hilarious, and the story nearly scares any little kid out of disobedience!
Reading was really a natural part of my childhood. I didn’t realize what a blessing it was it at the time, but today I am so thankful that my mom and grandma invested hours and hours of their precious time into reading with me.
A week-and-a-half ago, during my interview for an article in the Stevens County Times, I was asked if I was always a reader. As a kid, yes, I was.
I can’t say at what age I learned to decode words on the page, but I remember so often watching my mom move her finger across the page as she read me a story or even as we sang a hymn during church.
As I moved into reading independently, I discovered the thrill of losing myself for hours in a story. The Mouse and the Motorcycle was one of my first favorites, which led to me to read many other Beverly Cleary books. And what kid my age didn’t love reading Judy Blume’s Fudge books? Oh, and I would read the Encyclopedia Brown books about as fast I could pop a packet of Sixlets into my mouth! I will admit, I also went through a (long) phase of reading and collecting the Babysitter Club books. I could go on with the list of favorites, but I’ll stop there. Suffice it to say, like any growing reader, my tastes in books did mature.
I went from an “I-want-to-read-as-many-classics-as-I-can” phase in high school to an “only-classics-are-worthy-to-read” phase in college, to an “I’m-so-burnt-out-on-classics-I-could-scream” phase during my years as a high school English teacher. Thankfully, my dear husband (who has an affinity for the sci-fi and fantasy genres) challenged my way of thinking about what qualifies a book as a worthy read. And, boy, am I glad he did! I nearly lost the love of reading with that old, close-minded way of judging a book.
I’ve come to realize that we have periods of growth that make us look back on our younger self and just roll our eyes a bit.
During the interview I was also asked which book impacted me as a kid, to which I responded, “At what age?”
“Oh, any age,” was the reply.
I had been prepared to share some favorite books I’ve read with my kids, but I hadn’t thought about the ones that impacted me as a kid. As I quickly rolled through the catalog in my brain, the three titles that rolled off my tongue were:
- Charlotte’s Web (which also happens to be the first book that made me cry with my two older daughters while reading together)
- The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
- The Scarlet Letter
I’m not even sure why those were the first three that came to mind, but the list seems to represent my elementary, middle, and high school days. I have given it some thought over the last week: What touched me about those particular stories? I’ve tried to remember the characters and plot twists of each novel. And, although each title represents a drastically different story, I suppose it was the unlikely hero/heroine who had courage to press on despite the odds ahead of him/her, or the beautiful acts of self-sacrifice for the good of others (Charlotte for Wilbur, Aslan for Narnia, and Hester for Prim), or how I, the reader, was given hope despite the impossible circumstances. Maybe you’ve also felt some of those same things from different stories.
It’s good to remember what a positive impact a valuable story can make on young, impressionable minds. And even though all the layers of a story may not connect with the reader at every age, the message of Courage and Hope seems to resonate with even the youngest of readers.
Maybe reading this post has caused certain stories from your childhood to echo through your memories. Can I encourage you to share those stories with the young readers in your life? Read a great story with a child today, so your voice can be the echo in their tomorrow.
If you want to encourage others to do the same, go ahead and share this blog post with them!