There’s a weekly dialogue between myself and any one of the four out of five reading-aged kids who reside in this house.
It goes something like this:
Kid: “Maaaaaaaaaaa. I’m BOREDDDDDDDD.”
Me: “Read a book.”
Kid: “Ugh that’s BORINGGGGGGGG.”
Reading books has always been an essential part of my existence.
From as far back as I can remember, I’ve been an avid book reader and it’s always enhanced my life.
Back when I was growing up, weekly TV privileges were sparse, and the one thing I’d look forward to was my reading time every night after dinner and homework were complete.
Unfortunately with the advancements in technology and social media apps, I, like many fellow parents of my generation, find that it’s a real struggle to get kids to want to read any type of book, recreational or otherwise.
In this generation’s more digital culture, even establishing rules about time with video games or baseball watching won’t necessarily convince them to open a book and use their imaginations to set the stage for an experience unlike any other.
I think about the many ways that reading has always helped me in various aspects of my life and truly hope the next generation is able to acquire a taste for this age-old method of learning, relaxing, and cultivating an inner world.
In fact, the only time I wasn’t able to read was after Moshe passed—the inability to focus on a book is a common side effect of grief.
I only know that (and many other different tidbits of odd information) from reading about it.
It was one of many things I didn’t expect to lose during that time, and it took months to build up my discipline and energy to not keep rereading the same paragraph several times over. (Another well-known factor for reading the same page many times is motherhood.)
I started small, using magazine articles as a stepping-stone for my newly limited attention span, and then graduated to books of various genres that provided comfort through knowledge—bibliotherapy and memoirs—the books on grief supplied valuable information that made me feel less alone, and eventually the lighter, fictional books would be the escape I needed when I craved distraction.
It was my version of umami—a little heavy substantial reading, with a little light and humorous sprinkled in for good measure. Bitter, sweet, spicy, savory, sour. All the flavors for any mood.
Reading books makes me a better writer. Many writers traditionally begin their day with reading for 15–20 minutes as a means to get their creative juices flowing.
It’s a helpful tool to attain knowledge and inspire the story they want to tell, and we all know that each person on this planet has a very individualized one, whether autobiographical or imaginative.
What sets the storytellers apart from the ones who claim that they can’t do it is simply forming thoughts into words and words into sentences.
Writing a story is like riding a bike.
Or reading a book.
Coupled with my personality, it’s the only way I could think that this medium had been born out of tragic circumstances.
There are words I never use in my vocabulary that I read in books, and they occasionally pop up in my mind as I write and that’s a direct result of being an avid reader.
Word association is a very real thing and just like certain names go together or certain foods complement each other, the same applies to certain words. “Voracious” is a perfect mate for “reader.” “Whet” is a great word for “appetite.”
These are word mates that I’ve observed through my love of books and it’s also a way to enhance one’s use of vocabulary.
Reading improves the way we speak, our spelling, and it connects us to one another through mutual appreciation of different book genres. Book clubs establish connections and relationships with people who might only have that one thing in common.
It’s something I hope schools can incorporate as well. Get kids interested in good books, present it as something they want to do instead of feeling obligated to do. The Hebrew word for read is “l’kro,” which also mean to call. Reading is a calling. Learning, conjuring, being invited into the minds of others is an invitation to expand our own intellectual, emotional, and spiritual horizons.
On the eve of the first day of a new school year for the local children, I hope and pray that this year brings with it a newly ignited love of learning, specifically in the form of books. Words and ideas can pique their interest and hold their attention like the compelling first page of a new book has the ability to do for me.
Malkie Gordon Hirsch is a native of the Five Towns community, a mom of 5, a writer, and a social media influencer. Read more here.