Reading has been a great boon for me.
There are many things that crowd in and call out for our attention, some important and others not terribly so. We must constantly prioritize all of these external needs, not forgetting that we have our own different internal needs. I want to focus on one need that is usually quiet and reserved – therefore not often gaining the attention that it deserves from us in the clamor from all the other things in our lives.
We should feed our brains regularly. Sure you think that your brain gets plenty of stimulation with that impossibly long to-do list. Stimulation and feeding are very different things. I’ll explain what I mean by feeding, I think you are plenty clear on stimulation.
Remember back into your early days when you were eager to learn things that adults knew and that seemed wholly mysterious to you? Like reading. I hope that you have at least one memory of curling up in an adult’s lap and reading. While you search your memory, I’ll share some of my thoughts on reading and some memories.
The earliest books that we were given had wonderful pictures and some had a combination of pictures and these black shapes that adults could decode. Growing curious, it started to become clear that many of the shapes repeated again and again and they were somehow related to the words that the adult would say to tell us the story. How many of you had a favorite story or two that you knew so well you could pretend to read it?
When it was time we finally went to school and learned how to make sense of those shapes, called letters, and to understand how they combined to make words and sentences which made up these stories that opened up our worlds to things far beyond what we could experience in our little neighborhoods.
Reading became something that could be shared such as story time at the library, or as part of a classroom lesson – or reading could be something that could be done alone. For me, reading was always a treat. Gradually the books became longer and the pictures less frequent but the words would create pictures in my mind to flesh out the story.
As I grew I always had a book that I was reading for pleasure – even as an English major in college when I had quite a stack to read for class. I made time for reading with each new stage of my life. Then as an expectant mother I had visions of the joy that would come out of sharing my reading passion with my baby.
And we did read together, and it was just as wonderful to be the adult cuddling a child in my lap as it had been to be the read-to cuddled child. (The downside of early motherhood, especially after I had 2 little ones, was that I only managed to read one very short book for my own pleasure in a whole year’s time.)
My boys and I read together often, even once they could read on their own and they got into all the after school activities. Then our shared reading time moved to a bedtime ritual. We progressed into classics like Watership Down and read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy (I skipped the Elvish). It was regular together time that fed all of our minds. I was devastated when they told me perhaps it was time to stop once they were in their early teen years.
I consoled myself with the thought that we had kept story time going much longer than most other families. Plus we had the bonus of the Harry Potter series. We reconvened for the latest in that series until my older son was 16. (Sadly, we each read the last book separately – but discussed it together afterward.)
These are good memories with my boys. I have so many more memories of books that resonate for me down through my years – books that I read as a teen or young adult that have deep meaning to this day.
I know that your life is full of so very many obligations, I do. But your brain wants to be fed. One of the simplest ways to accomplish this is to pick up a book. Any book on a topic that interests you – fiction, biography, sports. I will tell you that it can take me a ridiculously long time to finish even escapist fiction. I might only read a page or two in a day. But that page or two takes me away from the everyday of my own life and allows me to experience life as someone else.
Reading about something outside your own experience, fiction or not, provides the opportunity to expand your knowledge base and the mental tools that you use to be successful.
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