by Katy Vance, Librarian
The greatest gift my mother ever gave me was ignoring me. Curled up on the couch with a cigarette in one hand and a book in the other, she would shoo us, telling us to go get our own book. I spent my childhood (and my adulthood!) immersed in fictional worlds. Here are some of the lives I've lived:
Scooting through outer space, hip hopping from planet to planet with Ford Prefect, Zaphod Beeblebrox and Trillian McMillion, enjoying my first introduction to British humor.
Coming around the corner and skidding on a road carpeted with butterflies as I traveled from Cairo to Cape Town.
Solving mysteries and escaping villains with the help of my best girl friends (and without the help of any boys, thank you very much).
Wreaking havoc on my parents, my babysitter, my teacher and my annoying neighbor with the help of my stuffed pal Hobbes.
Learning how to run my own business and overcoming challenges with my closest friends as we babysat every child in the neighborhood.
Using discarded books and leftover pieces of trash to build a windmill and bring electricity to my family in Malawi.
Without books, I wouldn't have believed that I could grow up to be a gymnast, a surgeon, a writer, a lawyer. I wouldn't have believed that children can make their own way in the world without parents to guide their way. I wouldn't have thought that I could travel beyond North America. Sure, my parents told me I could do these things. My father traveled and brought me trinkets from countries with hard to pronounce names. My mother worked as an ER nurse and told me I could be anything I wanted to be, bringing home stories of the female doctors with whom she worked. My cousins were Canadian and French, so I knew there was a world beyond my own country. But immersing myself in a world where I became the characters, where I felt the pain, the excitement, the joy? That's what made me believe.
Reading makes you smarter
Everybody knows it. I don't need to belabor this point. Reading builds your vocabulary, makes you a better writer, a more effective debater, and increases your knowledge base.
Reading makes you a better person
Reading broadens your worldview. By reading widely, we enter other people's lives, gain perspective and develop our empathy skills. We are able to travel to places we've yet to visit and understand experiences we may never have. Through a book, we can experience new worlds. As Neil Gaiman says, when you watch TV or see a film, you are looking at things happening to other people. When you read a book, you are creating this world in your mind, experiencing it through your mind's eye. You completely enter a world, becoming someone else and when you exit that world, you are changed. "You learn that everyone else out there is a me, as well" (Gaiman). The result? We are kinder, more open-minded, more caring humans.
Reading makes you healthier
As a yoga teacher, I can often be heard annoying people by suggesting that yoga is the solution for all your aches and pains. As a librarian, I am delighted to tell you there is proof that reading is seriously good for your health. Research shows that reading, even for six minutes, can reduce your stress through relaxation ("Reading can reduce"). Readers have lower levels of depression and sleep better than non-readers. Unlike other forms of entertainment for relaxation, like playing video games or engaging with social media, reading creates an emotionally engaged form of relaxation, which aids in calming your worries and keeps you from your personal anxieties (Billington).
All reading is good reading
"Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his needs, is good for him" - Maya Angelou
Reading is at the core of everything you want to do in life. The only way to get better at it is to read more, and there is no such thing as a bad book. It doesn't matter if you're reading Charles Dickens or Calvin & Hobbes. It doesn't matter if you're reading an ebook or a paperback or a manga. All reading is good reading. Graphic novels get a bad rap, but they are the gateway to EVERYTHING ELSE. So don't spend your summer pushing the books you love on your kids. Instead, let them push some of their books on you. Find out why Captain Underpants is never on the shelves and the Diary of a Minecraft Zombie has been the source of more than one confrontation in the library.
One way to read more is to participate in our summer reading challenge. For ELC and elementary students, we've created a summer reading BINGO card, challenging students to read a variety of genres in a variety of ways. For middle and high school students, there is a Monopoly themed game board.
Students who earn a BINGO or complete one set of Reading-o-poly properties will earn admission to our summer reading lunchtime celebration in the library on September 1st. Each completed BINGO/completed set of properties will earn a raffle ticket for bookish prizes like a fancy lunch in the library and a gift certificate to a bookstore.
No matter where your summer vacation takes you, I hope there will be a book by your side.
Works Cited and Selected Bibliography
Allington, Richard L. "How Reading Volume Affects Both Reading Fluency and Reading Achievement." International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education, vol. 7, no. 1, 31 Oct. 2014, pp. 13–26. ERIC, files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1053794.pdf.
Billington, Josie. Reading between the Lines: the Benefits of Reading for Pleasure. Quick Reads, 2015, Reading between the Lines: the Benefits of Reading for Pleasure, www.letterpressproject.co.uk/media/file/The_Benefits_of_Reading_for_Pleasure.pdf. Accessed 8 June 2017.
Cunningham, Anne E., and Keith E. Stanovich. "What Reading Does for the Mind." Journal of Direct Instruction, vol. 1, no. 2, pp. 137–149.,
mccleskeyms.typepad.com/files/what-reading-does-for-the-mind.pdf. Accessed 8 June 2017.
Gaiman, Neil. "Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming".
"Reading Can Help Reduce Stress." The Telegraph, 30 Mar. 2009,
Accessed 8 June 2017.