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Encouraging the Reading Habit

One truth I repeatedly observed during my years as a teacher was that avid readers tend to be better students than nonreaders. They exhibit greater working vocabularies, express themselves more effectively both orally and in writing, and demonstrate a broader base of knowledge on which to make applications of that knowledge.

As an avid reader myself, I appreciated finding readers in my classes. They often contributed valuable insights to class discussions and asked good questions. I tried to encourage the development of readers by talking about books I had enjoyed, suggesting titles my students might enjoy, and sometimes giving books as rewards for achievement.

So it was with a great measure of joy and pride when I saw my grandchildren showing an interest in reading. I was thrilled when I saw them more excited about visiting their local library and receiving books as gifts at Christmas and birthdays than about going to a ball game, viewing a TV show, or receiving some toy as a gift.

A couple of my granddaughters worked hard to earn money so they could buy--not some junk food or toy--reading lamps so they could stay up and read in bed at night!

Periodically, my daughters send my wife and me clandestinely snapped photos of the grandkids reading in all sorts of places and positions. Standing by the door waiting to go to school or church. Lying amid blankets and pillows on the couch. (I at first was alarmed to receive that photo, thinking that the child was sick, but no, she was just reading!) Or in a favorite corner, oblivious to the pile of toys surrounding them.

My grandchildren are learning that books can take them to all sorts of exciting worlds and allow them to experience (albeit vicariously) all sorts of exciting adventures. They are building their vocabularies and using their imaginations in ways that TV and movies never could stimulate.

Such mental and visual images remind me often of what clearly is my favorite quotation about reading. Ronald Reagan stated the profound yet simple truth that "One can never be lonely if he has a good book."

(I have always liked the photo above of Reagan aboard Air Force One, which shows him reading a little economics journal for which I had written a number of articles. It excited me to think--and I flattered myself with the thought--that he actually might have read some of my writing! If so, I wonder what he might have thought of it.)

But, to return to our primary topic of reading, I offer some other things people have said about not only reading but also its effects on one's writing. The people quoted were avid readers; they weren't slouches at writing, either!

I think that writing is derivative. I think good writing comes from good reading." (Charles Kuralt)
I kept always two books in my pocket: one to read, one to write in." (Robert Louis Stevenson)

The greatest part of a writer's time is spent reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book. (Samuel Johnson)

When the apostle Paul was imprisoned in Rome, he asked Timothy to bring him several things, including a cloak. But he also asked for two other things that were more important. He asked for books to read--and paper for writing (2 Tim. 4:13).

Is your reading resulting in your doing some of your own writing?

What are you reading now? Are you sharing it with others?

And what are you doing to encourage others, especially young people, to develop the reading habit? The writing habit?

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