Memories in books rediscovered

Dennis Warden

Books and reading have always been a big part of the Warden household. I would guess that we have in excess of 400 books on shelves and in various boxes throughout our house.

A good portion of these are children’s books we purchased for our three kids and those Connie used in class.

Connie and I were married the summer she graduated from the University of Missouri in Columbia with her degree in early childhood education.

When we moved back to Owensville in 1987 she accepted a third grade teaching position. She taught many years in the building where my grandfather Ralph Warden graduated from high school in 1923.

She took the position of my third-grade teacher Shelba Knight where she inherited about 10 Box Car Children books that Ms. Knight read to me in the 1968-69 school year. The boxcar series includes over 150 titles, we have 60. 

After 16 years in third grade, Connie left the classroom to become the high school librarian — I mean academic information coordinator. Before her retirement she was constantly reading books for young adults.

Over the weekend Connie and I — mostly Connie — did some cleaning and reorganizing of closets in the lower level of our home. 

Here we rediscovered the books we used to read to our children when they were young.

Some of the books I remember reading aloud to our three included any Dr. Seuss story, children stories from the Bible, The Clown of God, The Giving Tree and one of my favorites the Chronicles of Narnia. 

Study after study confirms the benefits of reading aloud to your children. Early reading, starting at birth, helps children learn to speak, interact, bond with parents and read early themselves.

At birth it doesn’t really matter what you read to a child. You can even read a newspaper column. At that point it’s the sound of your voice that is important.

As they grow and understand what you are reading you want to read stories that entertain, stories they like. Ask any teacher, a student who loves to read is a student who does well in school.

Developing a passion for reading is crucial, according to Jim Trelease, author of the best-seller, The Read-Aloud Handbook. “Every time we read to a child, we’re sending a ‘pleasure’ message to the child’s brain,” he writes.

In 1993 my sister, Denise was married in North Carolina to Charles Stanley. Charles’ sister Barbara gave Jacob and Ethan each a book by Eric Carle. Jacob’s gift was Papa, please get the moon for me, and Ethan’s was The Very Quiet Cricket.

Once Connie and I found an author we liked we purchased all of their books including the Sheep in a Jeep series by Nancy Shaw, and the other books by Carle.

We were eating dinner in the fall of 1999 when Jacob was excited about a character in a book his fourth grade teacher was reading in the classroom. Connie and I wondered who “Snape” was.

It’s been over 20 years since J.K. Rowling introduced the world to Hogwarts with her first book Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

I don’t know about your household, but everyone in our family are big readers, and her books were a hit for all of us.

Some of these books we read our children were experienced again when they were made into movies like The Polar Express and Harry Potter. Movies can be entertaining but books are better.

Reading aloud is, according to the landmark 1985 report Becoming a Nation of Readers, “the single most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading.”

The sad truth is that children who live in low-income families are less likely to have books read to them. According to the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, only 48 percent of families below the poverty level read to their preschoolers each day, compared with 64 percent of families whose incomes were at or above the poverty level.

We have all of the books I mentioned and much more on a shelf downstairs. The shelf is full of more than books. It’s full of memories we made with our children. Make some memories with your children, or grandchildren — read them a book.