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Matt Von Pinnon, Published April 25 2010

Von Pinnon: It’s a special gift to instill the joy of reading in a child

Recently, while cleaning closets in our house, my wife and I came upon a bunch of books we used to read to our now-4-year-old daughter before she outgrew them.

We transferred them to a bookshelf in the new baby’s room. We’ll get to read them many times again, but to a new pair of eyes.

The exercise got me thinking about the cherished time before bed each night in which we read to our 4-year-old while the baby usually falls asleep or fights sleep in the arms of the parent not reading.

Up until that time each night, it’s usually chaos. It’s the baby’s fussy time. The TV is usually blaring (sometimes to hear over the crying baby). Much has to get done or put in place to get ready for the next morning. The 4-year-old is usually wearing out, as are her parents.

So, once we all climb into the 4-year-old’s bed, the TV and computer are off and all the home’s lights are down except those needed for reading; it’s a special time.

The 4-year-old picks out three books from her shelf, and we read them together.

Some of the stories are classics. Others are new and brightly illustrated. Still others are downright strange or odd.

We sometimes read Christmas stories in summer and summer-themed stories when it’s 20 below zero outside. It doesn’t matter to her, so it doesn’t matter to us.

We read a lot of the same stories over and over, sometimes night after night until even she is bored with it and her parents are beyond wits’ end.

Some of the books she knows by heart. I’ll stop in the middle of sentences, and she’ll finish them.

And now she’s started reading to us. The words she reads may not be in the right order, but the narrative is spot on.

I’m amazed at how much she knows. She wants to know the makeup of words, so we spell them out. Now she’s spelling.

If we didn’t set a limit on the books each night, we’d never be done. She loves it that much.

In fact, threatening to take away a book at night is one of the few consequences that curbs her bad behavior.

As someone who depends upon readers to make a living, I’m of course proud to have a child who loves to read. I wish more people loved to read, and not because I believe reading is perhaps the most important skill in an educated person’s arsenal.

If you can’t read, you can’t learn much else. I hope people in charge of shaping education consider this while moving our schools to a more science- and technology-based curriculum.

Reading is practical. But it also improves our quality of life. It expands our imagination, invites us to interact with words or pictures on a page. In that respect, it’s magical.

Many of our newspaper readers tell me that their favorite time of day is when they can sit in their favorite chair, unfold the newspaper and read it as the rest of the world goes by.

Perhaps it’s a routine part of their day, or just a spare moment in which they can flex their reading muscles, put their mind somewhere else.

But maybe it’s deeper than that. Maybe someone special used to cuddle up and read to them, instilling a lifelong love of reading.

When I am old and gray and my eyesight no longer allows me to read words on a page, I hope my daughter returns the favor and reads to me.

I figure by reading to her, I’m investing in my future happiness, and hers.

Von Pinnon is editor of The Forum.


Reach him at (701) 241-5579 or mvonpinnon@forumcomm.com