Reading seems to become hereditary in practice

My parents’ parents read to them. My parents read to me. I read to my daughter. She reads to my granddaughters. I’m pleased to see the tradition continue. It’s almost as though it becomes part of our family’s DNA and the process is continued generation after generation.

When my brothers and I cleaned out our parents’ house after they died, among the memories we found were boxes and boxes of our childhood books. Our parents’ generation inscribed books they gave as gifts, so the dates told us when the books first came into our consciousness. At one point, I thought my granddaughters might like them.

It’s a bit disappointing to discover that the books I enjoyed when I was a kid no longer hold much appeal now. Today’s children’s books are linked to the children’s shows they watch on TV or at the movies. These grab their attention, whereas something I liked 3/4 of a century ago elicits a yawn.

But that’s okay. On the way back from a day trip to Lake Tahoe, my oldest granddaughter was goofing around with stories about imaginary beings, some she made up on the spot, others that might have been prompted from some of the books her parents read to her. We joked about portals between our car and the car with the rest of the family in it as though such portals were a part of our everyday reality.

I doubt that she remembers that conversation any more than I would remember a similar conversation with either of my parents from (give or take) the time of my 5th birthday. But the conversation told me her parents had been reading to her and that she had developed a wonderful imagination. I’m so proud of her for figuring out at her young age that there’s more to see that she can see with her physical eyes.

As a writer, I suppose I have a stake in the tradition of kids being read to by their parents and then discovering the joy of reading as they grow older. But it’s not because I hope they’ll buy my books. It’s because I have felt the power of my imagination in my life and can’t imagine living in the world without it. Reading is a powerful catalyst to thinking outside the box and outside the brainwashing of the political forces of one’s time.

Those with a powerful imagination may not have an easy time of it because they can see what others cannot see. They may grow up and find themselves out of step with the fads of the time. I know I did. But I wouldn’t trade understanding for conformity in spite of the temptations.

When my parents read to me, I doubt they thought the reading would have an impact on my life. They did it because it was fun and because I enjoyed the stories. The same is true when I read to my daughter. These days, we know there are studies that show that kids who are read to by their parents have a better shot at life. Maybe some parents know about those studies and read to their kids as a duty. I can’t say that I approve of that. Reading is such a wonderful way of sharing a story with one’s children, that there’s no other reason to do it. They like the stories. So do we.

Everything else in icing on the cake.


Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of the Florida Folk Magic Series of three magical novels now available as an e-book in mutlipe formats.