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National Editorials & Columns

Materials found in a home indicates importance of reading

Some say that the best thing about writing is you can revise life as you want it. Fictional characters quite often mirror parts of ourselves and give us a greater understanding of ourselves and the world around us. 

In order to enjoy that writing we need to be literate. No matter how often we remind ourselves as to ways to do that, the busyness of our lives often gets in the way. We know that as parents, grandparents, concerned others we need to read to and with children; to allow the child to follow the words and read along with us; to write about what we read; and most of all to show children we value reading.

We are granted only a small window of time to impact literacy development, basically from birth to about eight years old. That doesn’t mean we have completed our job concerning literacy, but it means our most effective influence is over.

The material around our home or in our technological aids indicates whether we think reading is important or not. Variety of novels, nonfiction, magazines, newspapers, work-related information shows the importance of literacy in our life. 

Years ago I learned that waiting in offices, etc. was much more enjoyable by having my own chosen reading material available. Most places where you might have to wait offer some type of reading material, but I often found them not to fit my need, so I pack a book and magazine, plus a crossword puzzle, so that I don’t fret when I need to wait.

Doctor offices often provide learning material, so I pick up brochures often to gain information.  One of the most enjoyable parts of vacations when my children were young was planning it.

Once we knew where we were going, we wrote for brochures and poured over them to decide what we would do. Each child got to choose a place to go or an event to attend during the vacation. Everyone participated and did not complain about the other’s choices, knowing each got to choose. 

As our family grew the youngest chose something age appropriate, but the teenagers joined in completely. In turn mom often chose a museum and even the youngest found a way to enjoy it.

By providing background for the trip, places to visit, and the types of things we could see, I don’t remember one of the six children saying, “I’m bored”.

I don’t believe our children were any better than others, but like William Tucker who wrote a powerful poem called, “So I Learned” said, “I was always told that I could not learn, So I did not learn... Then…Someone told me they thought I could learn, So I began to learn…” 

In a companion poem Tucker said, “I always had everything done for me,  So I failed to learn responsibility… Now I am learning that ‘my own way… can only lead to self-destruction.’”

The poem’s essence is that children need to be part of the action, but not all of the action. Family vacations are not about what the adults want to do or what the children want to do.

Family vacations are learning centers for enjoying what other people like, but getting a chance to enjoy what I like.

As a family tell stories to each other; talk about things you’ve read; write positive notes to each other, share in each other’s life where no one dominates. Let reading and writing be pleasurable activities and a daily part of life.

Martinson talks much about the home atmosphere’s emotional tones, value system and how traumatic events mold the atmosphere. We set our family’s emotional tone.

We are definitely more together than we are alone when we appreciate the uniqueness of each family member. Some of the best stories in our family are about my husband’s siblings’ escapades and my great-grandmother’s accomplishing things women just didn’t do in her day.

She was widowed at 40 with seven children to raise. She held a newspaper together, sold real-estate, ran a farm, kept boarders and taught music. She never weighed more than 98 lbs. and she drove her buggy more than 10 miles to reach some of her students. She lived to be 104 and kept a 12-room house until she died.

Granddad, a staunch Democrat and “Aunt Ma,” as I called her, an equally staunch Republican, often participated in “quiet” arguments.  As I played nearby I remember once hearing Granddad say, “Now, Mrs. D. … that is a matter the government should decide.”

My great-grandmother’s response, “Mr. J. … that is a matter the government must not decide. I refuse to allow it.”

There were many such conversations, my grandmother refusing to get involved, but no voices were ever raised and deep, mutual respect abounded.

The greatest valentine you can give your family is to spend time discussing topics of the day and listening to each other.

Until next week — Christine Pauley

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