SNOW, FIRELIGHT AND BOOKS

There was only a sprinkling of snow, but icy streets kept us inside for a couple of days.

Those cozy, snow days brought back memories of all-day card games with our grandchildren while chili simmered on the stove, and each of us always had a good book waiting to be read.

Pete, our grandson, sent a text on Friday morning:

“Gmom, I hope you and Grandad have a fire going today and a good book to read!” He knew that we did, because at Christmas every member of our family had at least one book on the wish list, and in the gift exchange, we accumulated some good books.

Just prior to the snow days, I ran across a bookmark quote: “Woke up this morning with a terrific urge to lie in bed all day and read.” As I read it, I said to myself, “Now that’s what I want to do one day, just forget everything else and read all day long.”

I love the stories that Eudora Welty told about her mother’s love of books.

When the Welty home was on fire, one of the first things Mrs. Welty rescued from the flames was her prized set of Charles Dickens novels. And Miss Eudora said about herself: “I cannot remember a time when I was not in love with them—with books themselves, cover and binding and the paper they were printed on, with their smell and their weight, and with their possession within my arms, captured and carried off to myself.”

Good books encourage, teach, educate, inspire, and help shape our values. C.S. Lewis said,

“We read to know we are not alone.”

Studies show that reading actually does nourish the brain. According to researchers who did a study with students at Emory University, the act of reading a novel stimulates the brain for days. Reading seems to activate the mind in the same way that we activate muscles when lifting weights. The more active our minds are, the more agile they become. Mark Batterson, author of “The Circle Maker,” wrote, “The simple act of reading involves millions of impulses firing across billions of synopses.”

I do hope that all these wonderful things are taking place in my brain when I sit in front of the fire with my favorite books–although I do have a tendency to fall asleep when I get too cozy.

 The Wall Street Journal published an article titled “The Need to Read.”

The writer, Will Schwalbe, says, “Reading is the best way I know to examine your life. By comparing what you’ve done to what others have done, and your thoughts and theories and feelings to those of others, you learn about yourself and the world around you. I’m on a search to find books to help me make sense of the world, to help me become a better person, to help me get my head around the big questions that I have and answer some of the small ones while I’m at it.”

I too have been on a search to find books that enhance my life. Along with my love for many kinds of books, I have found that the Bible helps me examine my life and inspires me to be a better person. A consistent reading of the Bible does help me to get my head around the big questions about life. 

James McCash said:

“The book to read is not the one which thinks for you, but the one which makes you think. No book in the world equals the Bible for that.”

 

“Sad Woman” photo courtesy of holohololand at Free Digital Photos

 

Reading – Your Civic Duty

 

Many people think literacy a simple question of being able to read,

but there is more to the issue. A person who is able to read but rarely does is not much better off than one who has never learned to read. Whether you can’t or can, but don’t read, you are functionally illiterate.

Many people love to read because it’s entertaining, fun and takes them to places they’re never been. Reading teaches us about the world and helps us develop empathy. According to Scholastic “each time you turn a page, your brain lights up — reading is a workout for the mind, body and soul.” In addition, Dr. Robert S. Wilson of the Rush University Medical Center states that, “reading has strong, positive effects on the brain. It increases concentration and memory, improves language abilities and grows brain cells in children.” Also, when children read, they are able to plan out an action in their heads and solve new problems in real life. Children are encouraged to read to find out more about the world in which they live and use that information to improve their lives.

Information from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development says, “Reading is the single most important skill necessary for a happy, productive and successful life.”

It’s not just children who benefit. Reading slows the process of cognitive decline in adults. Reading has a positive effect on the body as well. Reading can relieve stress better than listening to music or taking a walk.

Reading skills are essential to function in our society.

The world requires that adults are able to read and understand basic texts; function in the workplace; pay bills; understand legal and financial documents, and navigate technology. Advanced reading comprehension skills are needed to figure out the technological advances being made everyday in our society. Try figuring out how to program an I-phone, for instance.

Widespread illiteracy not only leads to lower education and employment rates, it is also linked to increased crime and incarceration with a high social and economic cost. In the National Adult Literacy Survey, participants completed a series of literacy tasks and received proficiency scores in prose, document, and quantitative literacy. Higher scores were associated with being employed, working more weeks during the year, and having higher wages. Lower levels of literacy correlated with high levels of poverty, unemployment and incarceration. The National Adult Literacy Survey (NALS) found that between 21% and 24% of U.S. adults performed at the lowest level on all three scales. Illiteracy has profound effects on society.

Duane Alexander, director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development found when there is a large number of adults whose literacy skills are too low to perform normal, day-to-day tasks, communities suffer. On average, adults at the lowest levels of literacy earn about $230-$245 per week, work only 18-19 weeks each year, are more than three times as likely to receive food stamps as compared to of those who read at the highest levels. They are almost ten times more likely to be living below the poverty line (41%-44% as compared to 4%-8%). Alexander further found and that many children living in poverty lack the skills that will allow them to become lifelong readers. A person with low reading ability may not be able to read signs, understand medical information or prescription directions, or apply for jobs that require basic skills tests.

Readers think critically about what they’ve read and make connections to their own lives.

As a result, they are likely to have a better life.

What’s a Person To Do? Get a good book and read!

Libraries have plenty of them. Read to yourself, your children, grandchildren and anyone you can get to be part of this experience. It’s a bonding experience that also cements the love for reading and its life long value.

  • Read to your children and have them read out loud to you. They’ll get better with time and your listening ears.
  • Become a tutor at a nearby school. Teaching helps you to learn.
  • Take or teach an Adult Education Classes. They’re fun.
  • Share books with others. Sharing experiences is contagious.

By Dr. Rachell Anderson

Check out Rachell’s website for more articles and books.