I'm the son of a bookstore manager and a librarian, so it probably was inevitable that I would grow up to love reading.
I didn't know that when I was little. I just knew that books were magical things. Many were filled with colorful pictures or interesting photographs. They all had mysterious words, which, when read aloud to me, sparked my imagination.
That doesn't happen for all children. So it is important to note two events this week that are designed to help Kentuckians of all ages become lifelong readers: the Kentucky Literacy Celebration and Read Across America.
The Kentucky Literacy Celebration, new this year, includes dozens of events across the state this week. Most are at elementary schools and public libraries, but it shouldn't stop there. Businesses are encouraged to highlight the importance of literacy in the workplace and in economic development. Parents are asked to set aside time to read to their children.
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First lady Jane Beshear, who organized the celebration with five educational organizations, plans to attend events in 14 counties. For more information and a schedule of all events, go to CCLD.coe.uky.edu/celebrate//index.html.
Read Across America is a 13-year-old program that happens each spring about March 2, the birthday of the late Theodor Geisel. He is better known as Dr. Seuss, the author of such classics as The Cat in the Hat, How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Green Eggs and Ham. Notice that I didn't call them children's classics; they're simply classics.
The National Education Association sponsors Read Across America with the goal of encouraging adults to read aloud to children. The big event in Lexington will be Saturday at Fayette Mall, in the hall outside Dillard's and the Disney Store.
From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., adults will read to children. Readers include state Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr, Mayor Jim Gray, Lexington Legends president Alan Stein, several school board members, local TV anchors and me.
In case the old folks get boring, other readers will include student athletes from the University of Kentucky and Transylvania University. The event is mainly intended for children younger than 11 and their parents, but older kids might want to come and hear members of Transy's quidditch team read from the Harry Potter books.
The Cat in the Hat and the Legends mascot, "Big L," will be there to meet kids and pose for photographs. There will be goodie bags for kids, and age-appropriate book lists and other information for parents.
"We just want to make sure that kids are exposed to books and an adult reading aloud to them," said Jessica Hiler, president of the Fayette County Education Association, which organized the Lexington event.
"Not every child is exposed to that at home," she said. "They are exposed to it at school, but having it in a different setting can be exciting for them."
Studies show that if children, beginning as young as 6 weeks, are read to regularly by adults, they are more likely to enjoy reading as they grow older. Reading helps students become better at writing and critical thinking. The better kids read, the better they do in school. The better they do in school, the better they do in life. You get the idea.
With a bookstore manager and a librarian for parents, my three brothers and I never lacked for books at home. Still, some of my earliest memories are of exciting trips to the Lexington Public Library, then in the Gratz Park building now occupied by the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning. I grew up and married a librarian, who now works in a bookstore's kids department.
Our two daughters are voracious readers, fine writers and successful young women. I like to think some of that can be attributed to the many hours they were read to by my wife and I and their grandparents. We read them everything from Dr. Seuss to Dickens, and my personal favorites, the E.B. White novels Trumpet of the Swan, Stuart Little and Charlotte's Web. They enjoyed it almost as much as we did.