March 9 is World Read Aloud Day, a day I was tuned into by Chris Singer, a great dad and beyond prolific reviewer of books over at Book Dads. The day is being organized by LitWorld, whose mission is to change the world with the power of words and promote global literacy. You can find out how to support their cause by clicking here. This post is inspired by their efforts.
My earliest memories of reading aren’t memories at all. My dad used to like to tell me about how I would sit in his lap and recite a book with him, well before I could read. The Little Red Caboose. It had a line I still remember. And the caboose was the last train down the track. Clickity-clack. Clickity-clack.
You’re almost two. Already you refuse to go to bed unless I read to you. “Book! Book!” you grunt and point, to the pile of them we keep on your dresser.
Your current favorite is Little Blue Truck, which is about trucks and animals and friendship and helping others who need help. You lean forward in my lap as I read, mouth open in a little ‘o’ like it is the first time I have told you the tale. I bet we have read this book together at least 50 times. You’d think I’d be sick of it by now.
How could I be? You make the noises along with the animals. Honk along with the big yellow truck, whose arrogance and rudeness gets him stuck in the mud. (There’s karma for trucks. I never knew.) Beep the little beep beep beep whenever the little blue truck goes rolling by.
It’s not television or my iPad or a new toy or a ride in the car that has you so excited. Just you and me and a book.
Your mother and I have had long, long discussions about the whole nature versus nurture thing. We have different opinions for different reasons. I believe in nature. She believes in nurture.
Selfishly, having you has changed my point of view. I like to think I’m having some kind of impact on you. Maybe I would stick to my “it’s all nature” guns if you were a holy terror who destroyed our house on a daily basis.
There are books and magazines scattered throughout the house, books and magazines we pick up frequently. You seeing us doing this, and wanting to do the same, is why I believe in physical books, even as physical books are becoming as quaint as a CD or a DVD. (This will make sense when you’re older, taking history classes.)
That and the lap thing. It’s not the same, flipping my finger across a tablet and having someone else read to you. Thankfully, you don’t have much interest in reading off a screen yet. I don’t press the issue.
Forgive my sentimentality. It’s hard to believe you’re two years old already. I can’t help but wonder how many things that have already taken root in you will stay with you for the rest of your life. I hope books are one of them.
Stories have been my companions as long as I can remember, a source of comfort and wonder. So much so that I referenced them in my toast to your mother on the day that we were married.
Here’s the thing. I can’t explain how I know Lara is the one. Because words fail me. And that’s saying something. I’ve been a bookworm my whole life. I write a lot. I spend a lot of time with words. I know words. But I’ve never been so disappointed in words, because they are no good to me today.
Jack, if there is one thing you ever learn from me that you hold on to, even after you decide you have to rebel against me to become your own man, hold onto this. Read.
Read for yourself. Read to learn. Read to explore. Read to escape. Read to understand. Read to fill your mind.
Because even when they fail you, words can still change the world. They’ve certainly changed mine.
If you’d like to support another dad who believes in reading, Ron Mattocks over at Clark Kent’s Lunchbox is trying to have a very personal project of his voted on so he can finish writing, and hopefully publish, a series of YA books to promote literacy. There can never be enough good books to read to kids. If you agree, take a click here and see what he’s up to and give him a little bit of support.