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The gift of reading

Dear Lucy: “You are always writing about something you read. I hate reading and just can’t make myself do it. Also, I sometimes have to look up words you use. What do you suggest?”
 Lucy Shaw

This past weekend, my kindergarten granddaughter, Niya, met me at my door with this great big smile and what she said was a very important announcement. Digging down in her “go-bag,” she pulled out this little paperback book and announced that she had her very first “chapter book.”  Not really knowing what a “chapter book” was, I jumped right into celebration with her because anything that has to do with books and reading is fine with me!

It turns out that this little book represented her initiation into reading a book with chapters and complete stories and themes just brief enough to capture and hold her short attention span. It is a graduation from “picture” books. I was amazed at Niya’s reading ability as she proudly read to me while I prepared breakfast. When she had to close the book to eat, she announced that her next trip to the bookstore would involve finding really nice bookmarks so she didn’t have to crimp the edges of the pages in her books.

This week’s question:  

Dear Lucy: “You are always writing about something you read. I hate reading and just can’t make myself do it. Also, I sometimes have to look up words you use. What do you suggest?”

Dear Reader: Now this is a great question because it is from someone who is very honest and sincere. This person has also opened a window into a new possibility and is ready for a push! So I want to say thanks for this question!   

I googled “reasons for a decline in reading” and found an article titled “20 Reasons for the Decline in Reading.”  Of course, one of the first reasons is the convenience of computers and the Internet! Recently, in Memphis, another mid-town bookstore closed.  The library is still a busy place, but a great deal of the busy-ness is in the use of computers.

But, have no fear; there are still those of us who can milk the joy out of a good book. I got my first library card at the age of 5 at the old Cossitt Library on Vance Avenue.  My sister was in high school and worked there. My mother, with only an eighth grade education, was an avid reader and so appreciative of the privilege that she insisted that all seven of her children learn to love it as well. Being only two generations removed from slavery, she considered books and reading to be manna from heaven and a precious jewel of great price. Whether you are a late or early blooming reader, here are some things to consider.

Your ability to read gives you a power that cannot be taken from you. No one can ever deprive you of information and you can learn to discern what is true or not.  

Start by simply reading whatever turns you on, whatever interests you.  

Reading is a quick way to build your vocabulary. Never, ever read a word you don’t understand without looking it up! When we were children, my Mother would use words with us that she had only read in books and could therefore not pronounce them correctly. She knew exactly what they meant because she looked them up, but had never heard them spoken. She derived great fun from having us pronounce them correctly for her. This was great encouragement for us, as we wanted to show her how smart we were.  

As adults, Sunday dinner at my Mother’s meant a review of the weekly newspapers and magazines. One would dare not go to her table unprepared. This is another great strategy for new readers. Read the news and share it with others for discussion and diversity of opinion.  This newspaper is available to you free in places such as Tri-State Bank of Memphis branches as well as on line.  

Just for practice, start reading the labels on all of the food items you purchase.  Any ingredient with more than 10-letters should make you think twice about eating that thing! This will have a nice health benefit for you also.  

Set an Intention. That means, make a decision to read, to love it, and to get good at it. Intention is everything. Create an affirmation that you use every day…”I intend to read 5 pages of something new every day for the next 3 months.” Set an intention that makes you stretch beyond your comfort zone.

And if by chance you need some help with your reading skills, find the local Literacy Council and see what they can do for you. In fact, if literacy is not a problem for you, volunteer with the Literacy Council and I bet that will get you reading!

Thanking you for being ready to find one of those pearls of great price!


(Check out Lucy Shaw’s website at http://www.heartworks4u.com.  You may send your questions to her by US mail to: Heartworks4U, LLC; 4646 Poplar Ave. Ste 201, Memphis, TN 38117 or by e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .)

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