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The Gift of Reading

December 1, 2018

Another Way for week of November 30, 2018

The Gift of Reading

Editor’s Note: First in a two-part series on reading, and the benefits of reading to children at a young age. Next week we’ll have a bookmark giveaway listing “Top 35 Books for Young Children.”

My first memories of books are the “Sally, Dick and Jane” early reader books my sisters brought home from school and read to me. I thought it was cool they could read, and couldn’t wait to go to school so I could learn to read too.

As I look now at the abundance of books my grandchildren have, and even back at the quite ample collection we had for our daughters, I’m somewhat shocked that we didn’t have more books than we did in my home growing up. We had a book of Bible stories that a salesman going door to door sold as a sample—I think—but Mom and Dad never bought the whole set. We also later got a complete set of Compton’s Encyclopedias. We devoured those books and wrote many a school assignment from them.

There was also a “Children’s Hour” story book with thick pages—simple fiction with morals that Mom would also use when she led children’s story time at church. We also had some Golden books, Black Beauty and of course, Pilgrim’s Progress.

My husband has fond memories from a set of books his parents bought their family called “My Book House,” (edited by Olive Beaupre Miller, England, 1920s), with archaic looking illustrations. He treasures those old books, some very mildewed.

I also have a heart wrenching book called Beautiful Joe: An Autobiography, written by “a dog” that was horribly mistreated. It was an early crusader book (1893) for the prevention of cruelty to animals, penned by Marshall Saunders.

Beautiful Joe was a real dog who was rescued and given to a beautiful family. I don’t think I could bear to read the first part to my own grandchildren. This book was given to one of my aunts, Mabel Miller, from her teacher at Pointer School in LaGrange Indiana, Harold Stroman. Mabel had appendicitis when she was 11 and I’m guessing that the teacher gave this as a get-well gift. Mabel later died at the age of 18 from the flu epidemic of 1918.

Those were different times but from a Washington Post article by Amy Joyce, I learned that even in today’s U.S., “fewer than half of children under the age of 5 are read to daily by a parent.” Regina Wenger, a doctoral student in history at Baylor, recently wrote a moving and inspiring essay, “Why Read” published in The Mennonite and online. She points out that reading is not only crucial for survival and succeeding in life (indeed, longevity increases in places where illiteracy rates are coming down), but reading “cultivates empathy and perspective.” My picture of the peoples in those places and other times has expanded monumentally from fiction based in South Africa, India, the former Yugoslavia, France and Belgium during World War II, even ordinary life during the Civil War here in Virginia.

Wenger also reminds us that reading slows us down and requires deeper cognition: “Especially in a world that communicates in 280-character statements, books compel us to take the long view and remember that words have power.”

Nancy Myers is a woman who I mainly know through Facebook and her blog, although she went to the same high school I did about six years ahead of me. I admire her work in Congo, Africa, helping women learn to read. She was involved helping train Congolese women as literacy workers so they can train others. The women’s enthusiasm for their work is truly exemplary—walking miles and risking personal safety to get to the trainings. This literacy work means that women and girls in this part of Africa will have options besides an early marriage and remaining uneducated their whole lives. The world’s literacy rate is gradually growing but there are still between 600-700 million in the world who cannot read. (Find Nancy’s blog at The Practical Mystic.)

Next week I will share a great list of favorite books for children collected by some of my readers and friends on Facebook, just in time for Christmas shopping for kids you know.


What do you do with books you no longer have room for on your shelves? One friend from church invited many of us to take things–free–from her overloaded shelves as she downsized a few years ago. I treasure this book, and this note!

What were your favorite books as a child? Comment here, or send memories to or Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834.




Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.  

  1. debra W Miller permalink

    I donated books to Appalachian highlands for their library

  2. Thank you for summarizing a slice of your life with books. As one blogger to another, I know you spent a lot of time gathering info and taking photos for this post. I don’t believe I could make it through Beautiful Joe. ;-(

    You know what I did with books when we moved, sparking joy in other readers when I gave away more than half of my library. These days I borrow books from our public library or buy Kindle books though I did buy Laughter is Sacred Space in hardback recently.

    • Nice to support a struggling actor with your purchase of Laughter is Sacred Space. I buy more books than I need, also in support of authors!! I just passed on one of Shawn Smucker’s books to a blogger friend who lives near by. It’s fun to share books, for sure. (The spread of Berenstain books was taken for another blog post but I thought I’d throw it in here too.) My grandsons seem to love those books even though they’ve worn thin on me. 🙂

  3. Silver, Beverly P - silverbp permalink

    Thanks for including the photograph at the end of your blog! I had forgotten that book and what happened to it! I remember it well- one of my earliest. I did keep and still have several others that I read to Lauren. When Morther was with us and Lauren was little I read them to her and around the kitchen table I READ TO BOTH OF THEM ALL THE LITTLE HOUSE BooKS (BY Wilder) and all the C. S. Lewis books in the “Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe” series. All three of us enjoyed them. I am forwarding the blog to Lauren, Ginger and another friend. I usually send your other blog entries to them all!

    • I’ll have to be honest I didn’t remember the story behind it until I opened it recently and found your note. So thoughtful. I will be certain to read this version to the grandsons and see what they think of Goldilocks! And thanks for the reminder that I too enjoyed reading all of the Little House books to our girls–long after they needed anyone reading to them anymore–at bedtime. It was so special, that storytime. Thanks for sharing the post.

  4. I enjoyed this post…you may have just inspired me to write something similar. I loved Nancy Drew mystery books as a child. Actually, still love mystery books. Another favourite was Hello, Mr. Twiddle, a gift from my grandpa. I still find that book funny.

  5. Oh my sisters and I enjoyed Nancy Drew too! Fun to read when we got old enough. Thanks for the memory! Now I’m not a big fan of mystery books–I do most of my leisure reading before I got to bed, and if the mystery is too suspenseful, I can’t put it down and then I can’t get to sleep! Thanks for chiming in with your memories and favs.

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