Early Reading Should Be One Thing: Fun

Early Reading Should Be One Thing: Fun

Books that spurred a love of reading.

Banning books. Burning books. Books pushing agendas. What about books that teach kids that it’s fun to read?

Growing up in the city, I always got such pleasure reaching for a favorite book. It was just as much fun as a game of fastpitch at the Field School schoolyard, or hoops at Leone Fieldhouse. And that passion outlived other time-passers. I don’t play baseball or basketball anymore, but I still love curling up with a good novel in the sunroom.

Plenty of the books I read in those formative years came from Scholastic Books. Our classroom teacher would distribute the company’s flyer to our classroom. I would pore over each book description, trying to make the best choice for the 3 or 4 books I would convince my parents to order for me. And I felt darn proud when the teacher told the class that I could choose anything I wanted, even though some books were a year or two above our grade level.

My penchant for mystery stories came early. I remember being in 2nd or 3rd grade hunting for clues in The Secret of Black Rock, The Dugout Canoe Mystery, and Emil and the Detectives. Those were but precursors to my discovery of Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, and Sherlock Holmes. Highpockets and other books by the prolific author John R Tunis were my passageways to sports fiction.

There were kid-geared biographies, too. After one School Parent’s Night Book Fair, my folks surprised me with a biography of Helen Keller. It was paired with a Thomas Edison biography containing the story, probably apocryphal, of the young inventor being pulled onto a train by his ears.

When I was eight my Swiss uncle gave me the English translation of the German children’s book Lottie and Lisa by Erich Kästner. While the title may not seem familiar to you, I assure you that you crushed on either Hayley Mills or Lindsay Lohan in The Parent Trap, movies based on that Kastner story.

Not every book had a story to tell. I memorized volumes filled with jokes, riddles, and whimsical verses. The first poem I could ever recite?

The Thunder God went for a ride,
Upon his favorite filly.
“I’m Thor,” he cried.
The horse replied,
“You forgot your thaddle, thilly.”

Now ask me how much of The Wasteland from my college English Lit of the 20th Century course I can remember…

Yes, I understand that early reading needs to be inclusive and non-stereotypical. But please, please, please let it be fun. What is more effective than instilling the joy of reading to produce a loving, caring, open-minded person and citizen?

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Hi! I am Les, a practicing pathologist living in the North Suburbs and commuting every day to the Western ones. I have lived my entire life in the Chicago area, and have a pretty good feel for the place, its attractions, culture, restaurants, and teams. My wife and I are empty-nesters with two adult children and four grandchildren.

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