Two weeks ago, I was one of over fifty children’s book authors who participated in the Chappaqua Children’s Book Festival. It was incredible to see so many children and their families demonstrating their love of books. While signing books and seeing a kid’s face light up is an unimaginably cool experience, the best part of the day came when a teacher, who had traveled the whole way from Hershey, Pennsylvania, approached me with a small gift and important story.
She told me about how books were being undervalued in her community. In fact, the local school district had just tried to ban over three hundred of them. In response, her students made little care packages filled with Hershey’s kisses and miniature bars to share with authors.
Inside each was a handwritten note from a student. My student wrote proudly that she had already read ten books this year and shared how much she loved books in general. Closing, she wrote, “Thank you so much for writing books so kids can read.” If I had the chance I would thank her, because where would writers be without readers?
A frequent child reader will devour forty-four books a year. An infrequent child reader still reads twenty-two. As we grow older, most of us read fewer books.
While the typical American adult reads four books a year, one in four Americans don’t read any.
The benefits of reading are obvious but bear repeating. As this article points out, it strengthens the brain, increases empathy, builds vocabulary, prevents cognitive decline, reduces stress, aids sleep, alleviates depression and lengthens lifespan. Most of all, it opens new worlds for us to experience and understand.
Last week, I also had the opportunity to do my first in person reading of Three Little Engines at a neighboring elementary school. There were four different reading events, two for second graders, one for first and one for kindergarten. The enthusiasm was contagious, their observations remarkable and questions illuminating. All reflections of how much they loved books and stories.
As the first graders starting filing out, one girl wearing a sparkling shirt with matching headband hung back, presumably to sneak in one last question. Instead, she looked at me and said, “Excuse me, I just wanted to say thank you and that you’re the first real live book author I’ve ever met and you’ve inspired me to go home and write a chapter book.”
Needless to say, this precious six-year-old made my day. But she also helps make my point.
We all have stories worthy of sharing. All we need is a little bravery to put them out into the world and an audience willing to receive and appreciate them.
I know there are many barriers to reading – a shortage of time or money chief amongst them. The first could be managed by carving out just a little time each day. If every person could read fifteen minutes a day, they would on average finish twelve books a year. One a month. Given the benefits above, imagine how healthier and happier we all would be.
The second can start by supporting your local library and/or one of these fantastic literacy organizations – including two of my favorites First Book and Read Ahead.
Thanks to all who choose to read this and all who spread the love of reading – including the two young students who inspired this little piece of writing.
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