Books and Breaking the Cycle

| 2/10/2016 8:20:00 AM

Mary ConleyDear friends,

Here is a sad statistic from Utah First Lady, Jeanette Herbert: “86 percent of all juvenile offenders have reading problems, and 60 percent of prison inmates are illiterate.”

I’m sure you have read about the importance of reading to a child. There are many statistics about how children who are read to have higher achievement and better self-esteem. Well, I wasn’t one of those to receive this help. It makes me sad to think that I didn’t have a single book as a small child, and have no remembrance of either parent reading to me or holding me and looking at a picture book. I even inquired of my older sisters-in-law if they remembered me having any books; they did not. 

My mother went through the 8th grade, and my father went part time through the 5th. They were hardworking farmers, and I have no resentment towards them for my lack of books and being read to. I often wonder how my mother had any time to give me attention or even keep me safe while she did all required of her back then. When I was older, she told me I could do anything I set my mind to. However, I often wonder how different I might be if I had had books and other important stimulation as a young child.

I never owned a book until a class friend, Connie Marsh, gave me one at my very first birthday party. I’m guessing I was in third or fourth grade. I still have it. So, when did I fall in love with reading? Well, in grade school, our teacher often read a continuing story aloud after the noon hour, and it was my favorite time of the day. It could be argued that she wasn’t actually teaching during that time, but we were given something very valuable — the love of books. Also, my mom started gathering with a few ladies on wintry Saturday nights at the small public library in our home town of Washta, Iowa. They mostly sat around knitting or crocheting, but one night she brought home one of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” series. I was hooked.  

When I had children of my own, I had the time and opportunity to break the cycle. Not only did our young children benefit from my reading to them, but I often felt that I was reclaiming some of my own childhood. I have been so thankful to know that the privilege and appreciation of reading has been passed on. It has been a real blessing as I’ve watched our grandchildren not only be read to, but from such beautifully written and illustrated books.  

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