Reading -- what a wonderful ability.
To travel to a distant land, live history, experience the future, meet people and visit new places, and learn of today, both at home and abroad, it's all possible by just reading the printed word.
Many of us are familiar with the RIF program --reading is fundamental.
Still more are familiar with the PBS show Reading Rainbow, hosted by LeVar Burton.
These and other programs have been part of a national effort to build reading skills from an early age, which helps foster literacy. Without the ability to communicate and to understand others, the world can be immensely more challenging.
Reading to our children is a rewarding experience.
Not only can our children benefit, but also the personal enrichment for us adults and the shared family time are priceless.
Today, computer games, television, the Internet, and the fast pace of our every minute filled lives have too easily replaced that pastime.
By taking a few moments each night to read to our children and have our children read to us results in time that can't be duplicated and memories that won't be replaced.
Our family's list includes the many whimsical tales of Dr. Seuss, the adventures of the Bobsey Twins, the detective series featuring the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators, the sports series of Chip Hilton, the science fiction adventures of Tom Swift, J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and later series such as J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter, A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snickett, R.L. Stine's Goosebumps, and the Hunger Games and Divergent series.
And then there is one of my favorite stories, "Gila Monsters Meet You at the Airport," a tale of two boys, one moving west from the east and the other moving east from the west and their preconceived notions of what "the other side" will be like.
A number of our favorite stories came to us in comic books, a staple for me since my earlier years, that included not only Superman, Batman and others in DC Comics, but also X-Men, Spiderman, and the Avengers, as well as many others from the Marvel universe.
There were the comics of Gold Key, featuring the Space Family Robinson, Magnus Robot Fighter, Turok Son of Stone, Tarzan of the Apes and Mighty Samson, in addition to the crossover comic versions of popular TV shows.
And I can't forget Classics Illustrated, which took many famous books and converted them to the comics format, giving me more ways to discover entire worlds and timelines, from Last of the Mohicans, Robin Hood, War of the Worlds, and the Count of Monte Cristo, to The Iliad, Julius Caesar, Taras Bulba and Joan of Arc.
We've shared all these, and other works, both fact and fiction, with warm cocoa, mood music at low volume, and dim lights for our young listeners, adding a connection that can be carried from home anywhere. That "snuggle time" is priceless.
That experience and the benefits it makes with our younger generations, of understanding, involvement, and imagination, have prompted many school systems across the country to emulate the quiet, family time of reading at home to partnering with programs and adult volunteers.
In a number of states, SMART, Start Making A Reader Today, has become the leading volunteer program dedicated to early literacy.
Geared to kindergarten through third-grade children who are at risk of low literacy and its associated negative outcomes, SMART pairs these children with caring adults, giving time and attention to them every day for a half hour.
SMART and similar programs also provide students with new books of their own each month, to read and share with their families and friends.
Our local civic clubs often help out as well, providing free books to our younger youth.
Our library has a strong reading program, enticing little ones to get involved with the power of the written word through a variety of presenters.
We've profiled this ongoing effort and some of those who have taken of their time to entertain and illustrate the magic of reading.
If you aren't familiar with the library programing, you can find regular notices in this paper, you can learn more online, and you can always visit the library. You'll be amazed at the plethora of the offerings, in print, video and audio, and through their newer e-books.
When we are doing interviews for new reporters, we always visit the library. It's a great asset for our community.
All these programs work because of the adult attention, the sponsors, and the books themselves.
Each effort is dependent on the volunteerism and commitment of those involved, from the teachers and students to the librarians and their staffs to the sponsors and adult readers.
In addition to stopping by the library during story time, visits to school systems where retirees, business people, and dedicated parents show their appreciation and interest can make a real impact.
We are all teachers.
We can have a profoundly positive influence on our youth by reading and sharing, both at home, in the library, and at school.