It’s National Read to Your Child Week.
Well, maybe not this week, but it should be. Actually, reading to your child should be a celebration every day, starting when mama first realizes a tiny person is growing inside her. I happen to be one of the multitudes who believe the unborn child is very much aware of the outside world and can learn to love books, or anything else going on in mama’s world. But that’s another discussion.
The love of stories comes from the seeds planted early in life.
I’ve loved stories since I was a small child. My mother used to read Little Golden Books to me as a child. How I loved those story books. I’d beg her to read them over. Of course she’d point to the words as she read and show me the pictures. Soon I could ‘read’ the stories to my dolls and stuffies. Mama’s greatest motivator (oops, her perspective) my greatest motivator for being good at the grocery store – or worse, the big shopping center where everything was so inviting, but I had to keep my hands in my pockets – was the promise of a book. Trust me; I’d do anything for a new book.
Thank the Lord we now have Kindle and Nook. I have no room for so many books these days. But I digress…
I started telling stories soon after I’d memorized all my Little Golden Books. It helped to have my Barbie dolls, and of course my Breyer horses, to play act, but the adventures came from my mind. It also helped to hear how easily a made-up adventure came to my little brother. My imagination grew from there. I could slip into my made up world and live out the adventures with my toys, then later I would share those experiences with my parents.
It’s true, the story-telling started to get a little weird by the time I was eight or nine. I totally got the whole concept of the real world versus the made up world, and I can almost put a finger on the day when I figured out that my folks were a bit worried about my imaginary friends. Time to change tactics, because I wasn’t about to give up my ‘other world’. First it was ‘let’s pretend’ with my friends. Later it was ‘what if’ as I was riding my pony in the Arizona desert with my horsey friends. (A few of those stories can be read in my Black Pony Adventures.)
It wasn’t long before my father picked up on my story-telling abilities. I think I was ten years old when he started encouraging me to sit down every day and write a story. For the longest time I thought of this little exercise as the worst level of punishment imaginable. After a while, the stories came easier. It was really no surprise when Daddy selected on of my stories – and made me type it on an old Underwood until it was perfect – and mailed it off to a magazine. I don’t remember which one, but I do remember the letter I got back one day saying that the story wasn’t quite right for their publication.
Back to the typewriter. Yea, I was hooked. Hooked good, and not discouraged.
One other thing helped hugely in my early story-telling.
My father and his co-workers.
These men were the heroes of my world. Actually they were true heroes for the entire United States. They were ‘fire-bomber’ pilots. They flew huge airplanes, fighting wildfires in the mountains. One of the most dangerous occupations in the country other than police and military is firefighting, whether from the ground or from the air. And when these men are not doing their jobs, they are reliving the adventures.
Can a person learn the technique of timing, painting a picture with words, infusing tension, and wrapping up the story by listening? You bet. I learned to be a shadow in the corner just to hear these stories which the men rarely even shared with their wives. And those stories melded with my own and gave me a lifetime of love for storytelling.
Can a person create a perfectly crafted story just from listening to books and stories? Not even if you are Hemmingway. It took me a few dozen years and a few thousand pink slips to figure out I needed another element. Education.
But the drive to obtain the education would never have been there had it not been for parents who read to me and told me stories.
Bottom line is this: Readers make better writers, and writers make better readers. And both reading and writing make better thinkers and decision makers.
Do you read to your child?