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By Tom McDonald
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Opinion: Reading great education contribution

 

Last updated 3/22/2022 at 4:27pm



I firmly believe that the greatest contribution to my daughters’ education wasn’t in helping them get through high school or even college. It was in teaching them a love for reading.

Often it came as bedtime stories by Dr. Seuss, or one of the tales of the Berenstain Bears, or through a Japanese children’s book I couldn’t read but their mother could. Whatever it was, they came to look forward to it every night and their love for books grew with time.

As parents, we didn’t teach them to read, but by the time they were old enough for school they were ready to devoir every reading assignment that came their way. From kindergarten on, they were always ahead of the norm — and, since reading is the foundation for so much more, they excelled in just about every other subject they took on, as their love for reading grew into a love for learning.

Last week, I visited my granddaughter Mei in Memphis, Tenn., and, on a whim, decided I needed to buy her a book. It certainly wasn’t her first book, but it was the first from me, and I chose “Green Eggs and Ham” by Dr. Seuss, not because of any sort of age-appropriate reason but because I have such fond memories of reading that book.

You see, when I read to a child, I like to become verbally animated. I become possessed by other voices, from high-pitched squealers to raspy wranglers and everything in between. And at least in my own mind, I was particularly good at delivering every word Sam I Am asked and every answer that the unnamed curmudgeon uttered.

I doubt my dramatic reading of Dr. Seuss’ classic will ever make it to Broadway, but that never matters with kids. They know how to appreciate the brilliance inside foolishness every time.

Well, not every time. After rushing home with our new book, with its edges already covered with slobber from Mei’s advanced “reading,” I sat right down with her to read all about “That Sam I Am, That Sam I Am,” so she would love “That Sam I Am.”

I quickly learned that “age-appropriateness” should have been a consideration after all.

First, the pages were made of paper. Give a 9-month-old a page in such a book and she can tear it right up in a hurry, so we had to work hard to avoid a literary catastrophe.

Then there’s her attention span. It’s more like an attention spa-, hey, look over there!

Nevertheless, through sheer determination on my part and total restlessness on Mei’s part, we finished the book and I set her free to crawl away and play / so we can read another day.

Another contribution to my daughters’ intellectual upbringing came through the imagination. It started with bedtime stories — first on campouts, then on nights in which a book just wasn’t enough.

Their favorite story was when they, in their superhero personas, would swoop in to save their mommy and daddy from something “terrible,” like Daddy sinking into quicksand and gurgling up bubbles of mud as he sank, only to be rescued by Mighty Maya and Amy Angel, along with their faithful sidekick Buckaroo (the family dog), just in the nick of time.

Again, it was for bedtime, not Broadway, so we always took care to live happily ever after.

Tom McDonald is editor of the New Mexico Community News Exchange. Contact him at:

[email protected]

 
 

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