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Read Me A Story, John Boy

I recently watched an old episode of “The Waltons” in which Olivia, the mom, decided to spend good money on a set of books for her seven children. A traveling salesman had enticed her with the promise of books that would open a whole new world to the somewhat isolated country family.

This episode was set during the Great Depression when work and money were equally scarce. So when Olivia gave up hard-earned money for the books, it was a big deal. The story goes on to show that she was flimflammed by the salesman. But there was a positive outcome by the end of the story.

What struck me about the show was how very important books were to the Walton family. Books offered an escape from the daily doldrums. They educated, entertained and encouraged even more reading and writing,

During our childhood, my siblings and I learned the value of reading the daily newspaper that our dad brought home under his arm each day. We grew up with parents who shared that same love of reading and writing, and we passed it on to our children.

Our built-in bookcase was in the front hall of our family home. It was stacked high with books of all varieties of topics from fiction to fact and even a few comic books. Our mother bought books at garage sales and library book sales to keep our interest in reading alive. I spent many rainy summer afternoons deep in a mystery while sitting on the front porch swing where the air was cooler than in the non-air conditioned house.

However, recent statistics brought to my attention gave me pause. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, reading proficiency by third grade is one of the most important predictors of whether a student will graduate high school and succeed in a career, yet according to a study by the U.S. Department of Education, 32 million adults in the U.S. still can’t read.

Barring any learning disabilities, I cannot fathom not being able to read. It’s like riding a bike. Once you get the basics down, the rest will take over.

Parenting expert Patrick Quinn with Brainly, an online learning platform, said there are a number of things parents can do to encourage their children to read.

∫ Offer reading rewards. For every 10 books your child reads, allow him/her to choose a prize from a bin of dollar store goodies or earn some type of coveted privilege.

∫ Pick books for your child that feature topics and themes in which he or she is already interested.

∫ Make a themed reading nook. Work with your child to make it an area where they’d want to hang out, which makes reading time even more special and appealing. Some themes might include under the sea, a Native American teepee, a princess palace or outer space.

∫And most of all set a good example. Read to your children. Let them see you reading. Take them to the library and make a big deal out of them having a library card.

Who knows, you just may be encouraging a future author like John Boy Walton.

Heather Ziegler can be reached via email at hziegler@theintelligencer.net.

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