Eastern Wake: Opinion

Column: Reading breeds active minds

Johnny Whitfield, columntst The Eastern Wake News and the Garner-Cleveland Record.
Johnny Whitfield, columntst The Eastern Wake News and the Garner-Cleveland Record. tiwabu@newsobserver.com

It should come as no surprise to anyone reading this column that those of us in the newspaper business like readers. Not just newspaper readers, mind you. We like anyone who reads, no matter what they read.

And so it should also come as no surprise to you, dear reader, that we closed our door for an hour on Monday and everyone in the office headed out to Wendell Elementary School to take part in Read Across America Day.

Along with fellow newspaper staffers Helen Feulner, Aaron Moody and Kara Bettis, I was assigned to two classrooms to read to the students. Each of us got our classroom assignments from Media Center Director Nancy Piper, who told us how old the students would be in our classrooms. She led us to a table stacked with books and went through them selecting titles that would be appropriate for the age groups we were working with. And off we went.

Moody went straight for a book about smelly feet. Go figure. I collected a book about rabbits trying to catch a bear and another book from Dr. Seuss, which I had never read, called Hooray for Diffendoofer Day.

Monday, if you’re not aware, was Dr. Seuss’s birthday, so it seemed appropriate that at least one Seuss title got a read on Monday.

That joker had arguably one of the most creative literary minds of any person to put pen to paper.

The experience of reading to children is unique. As I read the book about bear hunting, there was a particular phrase repeated page after page. Soon the children were reciting it for me, as if on cue.

The books also gave some children the chance to become storytellers themselves. One boy allowed as to how he figured there is one cave somewhere that about 1 million bears call home. That’d be one big cave.

A kindergartener in my other class tried to guess a number printed in the art on one page of the Dr. Seuss book. The number was 10 million. Her guess? Infinity. Seriously. This kindergartener guessed infinity. How does a 5-year-old grasp the mathematical concept of infinity?

In part, I would argue, by reading. She may not have correctly guessed the number on the page, but you could tell her brain was working.

That’s what reading does for all of us. It makes our brain work. Whether we’re trying to imagine the story from a Seuss book or the idea of 1 million bears in a cave, our minds are working.

People with active minds, tend to be active people. They tend to care what’s going on around them and that makes them better citizens. And that means they most likely have a greater interest in keeping up with current events, many of which they can read about... in the newspaper.

I asked our staff after we were done if they had enjoyed it. The smiles were big and the comments I got were favorable to a fault. Bettis called her students “cuties.” Feulner, who has a child about the same age as some of the students she read to, was also effusive in her evaluation. “I had a great time,” she said. I guess so. She was reading.

And Moody? His book was apparently popular with the students he visited, which included one class of special education students. “The kids in that class were better behaved than the regular class of kids, I had,” Moody said.

Reading is a life skill. It’s something we all use all the days of our life. I hope you’ll take the time to read to a child if you get the chance. It’s a great way to spend an hour.