Responsible parenting and leadership are a start. In between reaching for the sky (Toy Story rocks).

Screw the darkness. I prefer the lightness of Pop.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The B Rules: Read the Book First

Okay, so the kid isn't even out of the womb yet. But, reading will be a very high priority for the B-ster. I've already been reading out loud to B and Mama A, and B's responding in kind by moving excitedly in its protective uterine shell.

Or, maybe it's gas. (Mine not Mama's!)

But I don't think so. We've been playing the poke and poke back game with Mama's belly and it's definitely responding to our touch and tones.

I thank my Mom for instilling reading in me. She read to my sister and I regularly and my Mom remembers how much I coveted my books when I was little. I was a very shy, introspective child, and books were a way for me to connect with another life, another world. I'd sit in my room, or outside in my tree house when I was older, or anywhere for that matter, and read, read, read.

Fast forward to when I was 10. Somehow I came across a paperback copy of Jaws. Not an appropriate book for a 10-year-old, no, but I was quickly absorbed in it and ripped through the reading.

So of course since I was so well-versed in every aspect of the story, my imagineered vision of the shark horrifying real, I assumed that when my sister and I were taken to see the blockbuster movie version (one of the first true summer blockbusters), I would be fine.

God help me.

Within the first few minutes after the opening credits rolled, I was horrified and sick. When the woman was swimming and the great white first hit, I thought I had lost my mind (and my stomach).

Immediately I fled to the theater bathroom. I had no idea how long I was in there until Mom came and got me. I said I'd give it another go, but again within a few more minutes (I believe it was the diver part with the boat and the head), I was lost in gut-wrenching terror.

That was it. All done. I had to be taken home. But, my sister stayed, God bless her.

Within a week I was bragging to the other neighborhood kids about specific parts of the movie, parts I never saw (until years later), and I was revered for it. My sister would have none of that and cleaned up my flotsam and jetsam BS by reminding everyone that she stayed and watched the whole movie, and I went home like a scared little baby.

Good times.

The stark reality of visual images put before us can be too much, especially today with how far special effects have come. We can get into another discussion at another time of how such violent and sexual images can be detrimental for children and society at large (no, I'm fine that I saw Jaws at 10).

That's why reading it so powerful because our minds create a safety net for us, only allowing us to imagine based on what we already know and what we can handle as we teeter across the high wire of words over a sea of infinitum. When we read we are the captain of the boat and we decide exactly how horrifying the sharks are. This evolves as we get older but the rule still applies. And all of us have differing visions of what those words describe from book to book.

The problem is that once a director's vision is put to celluloid (wow, what am I, 100 years old?) or digitized in hi-res video, those images are the same for all of us indefinitely. Harry Potter is a perfect example of this.

Don't get me wrong, I love movies, whether they are original screenplays or adaptations. But dagnabbit, read the book first. Reading helps to build vocabulary and exercise the mind. Amy and I are big readers and I've become a little voracious about it again. Love it.

We missed this year's NEA Read Across America, which is an event sponsored by the National Education Association that promotes reading. But Mama A and Baby B, we'll be ready for it next year (March 2, 2009), and the year after that, and the year after…

Every day is Read Across America at our house.

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