The joy of reading

By Kathy Oswalt-Forsythe

The days are growing shorter, the nights are becoming colder, and the pile of books by my reading lamp is inching taller. Fall brings so many things: crisp apples, brilliant foliage, and warm sweaters. It also brings one of my favorite things: more opportunity to read.

Reading is fundamental to our democracy and quality of life, and it is a skill that most of us take for granted. Its importance spans our whole lives.

I can’t remember being without books. My brothers and I had favorite books my mother read over and over to us: “Peter Rabbit,” “The Little Engine that Could” and “The Little Red Hen” were some of my favorites. We eventually had many of the Dr. Seuss titles and some well-loved Walt Disney anthologies. We enjoyed them all.

My grandmother had several of my Uncle John and dad’s childhood books on her living room shelf, including a fascinating picture book of cats dressed in Victorian-type clothes with high collars, hats, and parasols. They sat at a table, they cooked at a stove, they drove an old jalopy. We couldn’t get over it, nor could we imagine dressing our cat in clothes.

School reinforced our parents’ efforts at home. Our speech teacher, Gail Reisterer, visited our Fulton Elementary kindergarten class regularly, mesmerizing us with her smile and various sounds we vocalized. We practiced things like “S-S-S-S-Sammy Snake” to her lovely praise. In 1st grade, we learned how to check out books in our tiny library. We made simple bookmarks and held them under the lines in our books during choral reading. What started as careful sounding out and chunking words, soon became effortless. Elementary teachers sure are amazing!

I remember our own children’s early reading, and the pride they felt when the letters became words, became sentences, and soon became paragraphs. In “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the narrator, Scout, says, “Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.” For most children, reading eventually becomes automatic. Some children do struggle with reading, and most, with extra time and support, do become readers.

Like many families, we were — and still are — regular visitors to libraries. Within our communities are wonderful libraries, staffed by reading and research enthusiasts ready to help their patrons. I’ve never asked, but I imagine as the cold weather approaches, library visits increase. I know my visits do!

Reading is even an important part of my relationships. Although I’m not a member of an official book club, my friends and I share books with each other. I often find a book on my front porch from my neighbors. We enjoy reviewing and discussing titles.

And last week, one of my friends suggested that this winter we pick an afternoon each week, gather with our current titles, and read together near their home’s fireplace.

I can’t imagine anything nicer: a good book, wonderful friend, cozy fire, and time to read.

It’s a Fine Life

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