Monday, November 19, 2012

Print Motivation; It's Personal With Me

I just finished making and posting short videos for the six early reading skills, and one of them is print motivation. As I say in the video, "It's just loving books. Children love to read because they see you read, and they love you to read to them."

I realized today what a profound understatement that was. I grew up in a house where we absorbed that. fact. I don't remember being told, but instead experienced the belief that any answer could be found in a book. I do remember my father saying to me, "As long as you have a book you will never be lonely."

But here's how I really absorbed print motivation. My parent's bedroom was filled with books- a whole wall of them several shelves high. There were books on their headboard which actually had cupboards to hold... more books! The only other piece of furniture in their room was a large oak file cabinet which housed manila  file folders on everything under the sun (including one for each of us four children- and I still have mine), my father's underwear, and an emergency can of coffee. What can I say. The man had his priorities straight!

My mother was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease when I about five, and the first thing my father did was sit us all down with a very large medical book he had purchased. We were going to learn all we could about this new uninvited guest.

Years later, when I was was searching for answers to my own physical problems, I bought a book that contained the latest and quite controversial information. According to the book and my symptoms, I felt pretty certain I had endometreosis. At that time many doctors didn't "believe" it was a real condition. I carried that book around with me until I found a doctor who was willing to read the few pages I'd marked. He even made copies. He did surgery and told me my (non-existent) condition had been so severe I probably wouldn't be able to have children. I got pregnant almost immediately, and then had a second child. Years later when my son's middle-school assignment was to interview a parent about the the most influential book in his or her life, there was no contest; Women and the Crisis in Sex Hormones. I told my son that without that book I don't think he would have been born. As it turned out he had to give an oral book report, and I guess it led to quite a discussion about the influence of non-fiction books!

A close second for completely different reasons was The McCall's Make-it Book, published in 1953. About ten years ago I was reminiscing with my sister (an endless well for us!), and asked if she remembered that book. She said emphatically, "Remember it? It was like your second mother!" By then the Internet gave us the ability to track down obscure long-gone books, and I actually located a copy and purchased it. I can't tell you the physical, mental, and emotional response I had as I opened the box and looked at the cover. Every single one of the 200 pages was familiar. And as I read the text and looked at the pictures I was stunned to see the respect with which this book written in the fifties spoke directly to the child. It pictured girls using wood-shop tools, boys knitting, and didn't talk down. No child who had this book could ever be bored or lacking in imagination (I know what those of you who know me are thinking.... that explains my affinity for props- and you're probably right!).

So why am I sharing all of this with you? Because print motivation is no small thing. It is life-changing and lifelong. I see it with my two young grandchildren now. Books are shaping their lives, leading to conversations and teaching them to think. It's more than just "reading to your child every day." It's having lots and lots of books around, and using them, and going to the library all the time and getting more books.. and talking more about them. It's a lifestyle. And yes, I love technology, but there is nothing like the feel and smell and accessibility and sharing together of a real book. And singing and reading walk hand in hand. Rhythm is music is language is reading. Songs are portable literacy.You read with children when you can sit and be still and be able to turn the pages. But a song can go anyplace with you, from the car to the changing table to the bathtub. Reading and singing both can teach, and heal, and connect, and inspire. And this project seeks to insure you are never lacking in either. So yes, for me print motivation is personal!