Sunday, October 9, 2011

It’s in the Genes

Thursday I had the joy of reading at Pre School Story Time at the Ronning Branch Library. This opportunity was afforded to me as a member of the Siouxland Libraries Board of Trustees. City Councilors and members of the Library Board were invited to participate in the nationwide effort to promote reading.

Others participating in schools and libraries throughout Sioux Falls were City Councilors Sue Aguilar, Michelle Erpenbach, Vernon Brown, and Greg Jamison, County Commissioner and Library Board Member Cindy Heiberger and Fire Chief Jim Sideras.

A trip down memory lane – As a pre adolescent I never read books, though I grew up in a house where reading was the number one recreational activity. My Mom never missed reading each week’s edition of both “Life” and “Look” (photo) magazines. She subscribed to the Reader’s Digest Condensed Books that were published quarterly incorporating current Best Sellers in condensed versions. Mom read many best sellers (usually novels) that were rented from a rental library at Monnigs, a local department store in Fort Worth.

Mom for a time was also on the Board of the Fort Worth Lighthouse for the Blind (today it is called by a more politically correct name, eliminating the blind word and incorporating sight impaired or something similar.) Her Board position at the “Lighthouse” was a result of her working through the local Council of Jewish Women and her volunteer time reading to the blind.

My Daddy was a reading machine. A student who never had the opportunity to attend College he was self educated. Dad treasured books and had a large library. His reading was massive and varied. Included in his reading were history and current events, the Classics, even college textbooks on very technical subjects including chemistry and life sciences. He read cover to cover the “Encyclopedia Britannica”, all 24 volumes and “The Book of Knowledge” (a student’s encyclopedia some 20 volumes). His reading often included works of poetry. His favorite books were historical fiction. Late in his life he focused on Judaism and Torah studies.

Being in a home of readers gave me an appreciation of books both in learning about the world and for recreation. Never a good student, I did read a lot but mostly sports magazines, the newspaper, and Mom’s “Life” and “Look” - really never a book.

I was exposed however. Soon after my fifth birthday when bedridden for about 6 months both my Dad and Mom read to me incessantly. This was just before television entered our lives so reading was still entertainment to a young child. Mom read Fairy Tales and children’s books and Dad read young people’s editions of “The Adventures of Marco Polo”, “Robin Hood and his Merry Men”, “Tom Sawyer”, and “The Life of Abraham Lincoln.”

And there was always Poetry - Occasionally after Supper, sitting at the dinner table or in our Den, my younger Brother and I listened as Dad read many poems including favorites “Casey At the Bat”, “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere”, “If”, “The Cremation of Sam McGee”, and so many others.

Only when I was in the seventh grade did I open the cover and read the first real book I remember – “Cheaper by the Dozen.” Even through high school though not a scholar I became a heavy reader.

I love books; I love Libraries, and focused diligently to try to insure that my children became readers as well. Despite a less than stellar effort (I was pretty engrossed in business and volunteer political work) I must have succeeded. Both my son and my daughter Jackie (received her University degree in English Literature) read extensively for pleasure.I am very proud to say my nine year old grandson is an avid reader. Last week in just two days he read and finished “Percy Jackson – The Lightening Thief”.

Yes, reading is hereditary.

Obviously all this came back to me when I read to the three and four year olds at Story Time.

Siouxland Libraries is delivering excellent Library Service to its Citizens. Exposing young children to the world of books and libraries is an essential public service. (Not public safety or utilities but still essential.)

Jim Oliver the senior staff member of the Youth department does a wonderful job of providing enticing programming. Siouxland Libraries’ entire leadership team is focused on getting the young people in our community understanding and using libraries.

I especially want to thank and say I am impressed with the work of Ronning branch director, Jane Taylor (who is high fiving the three and four year olds and calling them by name) and the enthusiasms of Paula Goettsch, the real Reading Lady of Siouxland Libraries.