A is for applauding young readers

By Gus Bode

pull quote:My parents knew that if left solely to my own devices, my thirst for knowledge would dry up long before I was of schooling age.

I was at work the other day when a couple brought their 3-year-old son into the waiting room. I watched the parents interact with their little redheaded pride and joy. First, he started playing the alphabet game with his mother, who lost interest quickly.

The poor kid was hunting all over the room for a “G” when he finally gave up. He picked up a magazine and crawled between his parents, pointing at the pictures and asking them what the articles said.

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“Not now, son,” his father muttered and turned back to his own magazine. The boy cast a hopeful glance at his mother, who was already on her way to the restroom. I offered to read the page with him when his father interceded.

“You don’t want to start down that road, trust me. You’ll wind up reading everything in here aloud.” He shook his head and looked back down at his “Car & Driver.” I stared at this child for a long moment with more pity than I’ve felt in a long time.

I realize it is silly of me, but it took me many years to figure out that not every child had the opportunity to be raised by parents like mine. They were so involved with my early education that I assumed all of my friends also grew up in similar households. Homes where every item in the house bore a taped index card on front, identifying the name of the object. Homes with lawns containing hundreds of exciting science lessons waiting to be discovered. Homes where an afternoon did not go by without learning new words and ideas.

I remember being very, very small and absolutely fascinated with the written word. Nights when my little brother or I were fussy at bedtime, and my father would scoop one of us up and carry us into a dark room. As he paced around the darkness with me in his arms, he would recite his favorite poetry in my ear. I think back to long ago, drifting off in sleep to the sound of his deep baritone voice narrating Longfellow and Thayer like a magnificent storyteller.

“Whooping bellow! Whooping bellow!” my little brother would beg, casting his nightly vote for “The Wreck of the Hesperus.”

“Rattle in the dell!” I’d plead, always a fan of Casey and the Mudville Nine. I wonder if, when the author created this poem, he knew someday children would beg their daddies to recite it back to them before bed, or was it just a homework assignment when he was in the seventh grade?

Regardless, it worked on me. By the time I reached kindergarten, I was a human sponge for literature – which is the point, I suppose. My parents knew that if left solely to my own devices, my thirst for knowledge would dry up long before I was of schooling age.

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These first years are so, so crucial. I know parents all have their bad days. Mine did. And I’m fully aware childrearing is quite possibly the most tedious job in the world at times.

And I suppose parents out there might read this and feel targeted by this haughty, single, childless girl who doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Maybe they’re rearing up to send me angry emails, telling me that when I have children of my own, just wait and see if I have the energy at the end of the day to, for lack of a better phrase, eat my own words.

But if they’re taking the time to read the newspaper today, perhaps at least a couple of them are reading it aloud to their kids in those few scarce moments they have together in the day. They should know they are the targets but of my admiration rather than scorn. There are so many children out there today whose parents, sadly, cannot even read well. I pray the ones who can are passing the gift on. I know I can’t wait to.

Not just another Priddy face appears every Wednesday. Grace is a senior in architecture. Her views do not necessarily reflect those of the Daily Egyptian.

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