Recently I received an e-mail from the United Way of Southeastern Michigan (UWSEM) asking me to tell them about my favorite childhood book. As I sit on the UWSEM Campaign Committee, I gave the request some thought, prepared an answer, and thought that was the end of that.
Doing that exercise spurred something within me, however, and lately I’ve thought a lot about the role that reading has played in my life. When I was in the first grade, my dad told me that he wanted me to read one book per week. He took me to the library, and I checked out “The Flying Tackle.” I don’t remember the author, but I remember loving it. It was like watching a movie in my head, and I could start it and stop it just by picking up or putting down my book. The problem soon became that my mom and dad had to take me to the library so frequently that I’m sure I became a nuisance. To this day, I’m thankful to my dad for putting me on the right track so that I’m a voracious reader of books in print, on my Kindle, or on my iPad.
Because of the importance reading played in my life, I read to my kids often. Whether it was the “Muppets Spilled Milk,” “The Napping House,” “Are You My Mother?,” or later, “Harry Potter,” I enjoyed it as much as the kids. We read the books so often that even before they could read, they had them memorized and mouthed the words before I even said them out loud. Sometimes I’d even change a word in the story and they would immediately call me out on it. Such fond memories!
My four children are grown now. They’ve done very well academically, and they’re good people. I am convinced that my Dad is in large part responsible for that. When he piqued my interest in reading, I’m sure he had no idea that he set events in motion that would ensure his grandchildren would be interested in reading as well.
That’s why I am so passionate about the United Way’s Early Childhood Development initiative, because it will help not only kids today but also their children and their children’s children. Only through education can we improve the future of our children and, therefore, our region, and early childhood development is the first step in that process. As Dr. Seuss once wrote, “The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
What about you? What was your favorite childhood book? What memories do you have that involved reading, and how important was reading in shaping the professional you’ve become?