By Janice Greer, Administrative Assistant - Engagement
Here at Kent District Library, we love reading year-round – but March is a great month to pick up a book since it is National Reading Month! Reading and listening to books is especially important for young children, since studies have shown that children who have been read to from an early age are more likely to develop good reading and writing skills.
That has certainly proved true for me. I’ve been immersed in books my entire life, thanks in large part to my parents. After my older brother was born, my parents – both teachers – decided that my mom would stay home and homeschool us kids. While that isn’t a choice available to many families,
it had a profound impact on my childhood and how I approach reading and learning today.
I learned to read early enough that I don’t remember a time when I couldn’t read. My mom, on the other hand, fondly remembers reading countless picture books to me as a toddler. Apparently, I memorized my favorite picture book, Chatty Chipmunk’s Nutty Day, and recited it along with her while she read to me. On family road trips, we always had an audiobook playing. At home, my parents always had at least one book in their reading piles. Their example during those early days of picture books and audiobooks laid the foundation for the insatiable appetite for reading which I developed early in childhood.
I voraciously devoured The Chronicles of Narnia, Anne of Green Gables, Ranger’s Apprentice, The Youngest Templar and countless other books and series. As an eleven-year-old, I read the Lord of the Rings trilogy in three days – which is still my record for the most reading I’ve done in the shortest amount of time! These books fed my already-active imagination and gave me the fuel to invent my own stories, which I then playacted with dolls and forts in the woods.
My interest in books didn’t stop at fiction. Our parents encouraged us to be inquisitive. Dad built Legos and rockets with us; Mom taught us the names of trees and plants that populated the garden and woods around our house. My brother and I caught frogs and salamanders to keep as short-term pets. Questions about botany, history, weather and much more were answered in books from our own shelves or those at the local library. Weekly trips to the library saw us emerge triumphant with tote bags full of books, almost all of which would be read before our next visit.
The homeschool curriculum that our parents picked also placed a strong emphasis on reading. Even I, voracious reader that I am, usually couldn’t get through each grade’s reading list within one school year – I’d still be reading well into June (not that I minded much). Those homeschool reading books introduced me to new genres, authors and cultures to explore, and the library provided the materials for that expanded exploration. I read Mara, Daughter of the Nile for school; I brought home books on Egypt and the pharaohs from the library.
Between my parents’ encouragement and example, homeschooling’s freedom of exploration and the library’s massive repository of materials, I developed first a love for reading, and then a love for learning. For me at least, the two go hand in hand. I usually have at least four books in my reading pile at a time – a literary novel for work lunch breaks, a lighter novel for at home, a nonfiction book for learning something new and an audiobook for the car. My recent reading list has included a book on natural fabric dyes, a YA fantasy trilogy, a history of Jewish seamstresses in Auschwitz and a historical novel by Isabel Allende. I love to read, I read to learn and both reading and learning enrich my life.
Whether you’re a parent or student, adult or child: pick up a book and read. Read about children who find a magic carpet, how to tell apart frog species, the language of Incan quipus or survival on the Russian Steppe. Whatever interests you – read about it! Not sure how to find books by a certain author or on a certain subject matter? Head to your nearest library branch and ask a librarian. They’ll be delighted to answer your questions and send you home with just the right book for you! And parents, remember: your kids are watching and listening. If they see you reading and if you read to them, it can help them develop a lifelong love of reading and learning.