It was Family Literacy Day on Monday (Jan 27). I always think of the books my parents packed our houses with, and how they never complained about buying them, and how we went to the library almost every weekend. I remember my mom reading all her weird spiritual awareness books out loud on car trips and all the arguments…ahem, sorry “discussions,” that ensued because of them. I remember all our bathrooms having books in them, and being totally suprised that not everyone reads on the toilet. And, I am pleased to say, that not only did my dad and I read aloud to each other when I was a child, but it’s still a tradition that we read to each other on holidays. When I was young, we read everything from Tommie de Paola’s picture books to Waiting for Godot. I remember with fondness how my dad would fall asleep most nights while reading aloud, and he had this amazing talent for continuing to mumble while he was drifting off. The story no longer made sense, suddenly there were chickens or something, and then he would start to snore.
It’s as though I never had an option to not like books, it feels as though it was just innately in me. But it wasn’t just books. My dad never made a distinction between the Archie comic books I adored, and the heftier books I read. We listened to CBC constantly, I don’t think the radio was ever turned off in my house, just down. My mother wrote a book about her town’s story of being populated by Sephardic Jews running away from the Spanish Inquisition called, Descalzos en Palmares. We went to watch plays together and my dad took me to see the movie of A Chorus Line when I was 9. We watched tv together and I don’t think we’ve ever sat for less than 2 hours for dinner. I was taught by my parents about all types of storytelling and that all stories are to be loved and treasured. I think what happened was that I became addicted to stories. On the radio, in movies, on tv, in books, and even in person, I want to hear people’s stories. Whether fictional or real, a well told story has always enraptured me. I hate commercials (they’re why I don’t have cable), I hate people who talk at the theatre (there really is a special hell for them), and I simply CAN NOT put down a book once I’ve gotten to a crucial point in the plot (I’ve called in sick to work to finish a book on numerous occasions).
So, for this week of Family Literacy, I’m going to say something I’m sure has been said before, and by people far more educated than I: I think focusing on reading might not be the complete answer to getting kids to read. Perhaps a broader focus on story, on showing children all the formats a good one can come in, and getting them addicted to seeking out all those formats, might not be a bad idea. It seems to have worked on me.