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The Simple Act of Reading by Lisa Miller

The simple act of reading...

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“I’ll like you for always. I’ll love you forever. As long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.” Imagine my surprise when I read this recent status update on my nephew’s social media page. My nephew, Justin, is a freshman at Oregon State University Honors College. He has plans of becoming a doctor. And this recent status update is a simple quote from one of his fondest memories - his parents reading to him from his favorite book, “Love You Forever”, by Robert Munsch.

This status update brought back many fond memories of my two daughters. As a family, we grew up in the Salem Public Library. In the fortunate years I was able to work as a stay-at-home mom, regular trips to the library were our tradition. My daughters, Haley and Julia, had such a hard time choosing just one book to check out when it was time to leave that they would end up bringing home stacks of colorful picture books and early reader books. We devoured these books. Reading a story every night at bedtime became a mandatory ritual. We would re-read our favorites over and over again, keeping them much longer than we were suppose to, resulting in continuous overdue fines. (My family jokes that my library card has been revoked for this very reason. Contrary to popular belief, I am NOT on the library’s Most Wanted list, as my fines were always paid in full and I still use my card on a regular basis.)

As innocent as the simple act of reading to our children may seem, the research behind the importance of reading aloud to children is plentiful. The Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics released a report, “America’s Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2011”, sharing data on the number of young children who are read to at home. The report recognizes this as one of the key national indicators of well-being for children, correlating it to increased language and vocabulary skills, increased reading comprehension and overall success in school. Another recent report, “Early Warning: Why Reading By the End of Third Grade Matters. A KIDS COUNT special report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation” confirms a link between third grade reading skills and high school graduation rates, showing early reading ability as an indicator for later student success.

As important as all this evidence is, it does not make me smile like the memory of climbing into the big recliner with my girls and giggling through the story of Farmer Brown and his dissatisfied cows in “Click, Clack, Moo” (written by Doreen Cronin). This research does not bring back the warm, fuzzy feeling from days long ago, cuddled with my girls together under the blankets reading “Guess How Much I Love You” by Sam McBratney. Knowing these special reading times helped our daughters grow into the successful high school students they are now is extremely gratifying. Even more, the memories these moments created are priceless.

Perhaps Justin will start a new college freshman tradition. When my oldest daughter, Haley, makes her way to college she can post a status update following the example of my nephew. “I love you right up to the moon.” Of course, I will have to reply.” I love you right up to the moon – AND BACK”.

~Lisa Miller is a Health Educator with the Marion County Health Department, working in substance abuse and problem gambling prevention. She can be reached at lmiller@co.marion.or.us or 503-981-2461.