Dear Readers: This is a special day for me, because this is the day I take a break from hosting your questions in order to advocate for a cause that is very near and dear to me: literacy. In my long career as a writer and reader, I have volunteered in classrooms, libraries and prisons, reading with others and sharing the work of writers important in my own life. I do so in honor of my late is that more than a third of families in the United States do not regularly share books with their young children. Starting a celebration morning by reading together will forge an unforgettable intimacy for both the child and the parent.
This year I am partnering with Childrens Reading Connection, an early literacy program founded in my hometown of Ithaca, NY. Their advocacy focuses on the importance of sharing books with babies and children. Even babies too young to talk will tune in, in a deep and abiding way, when they are held and read to. This is an important prescription for health and success in growing brains — and sharing a book is a wonderful way for families to connect. Every year I hear from teachers, librarians, parents and grandparents who tell me they have adopted the “book on every bed” tradition in their homes. I can think of no nicer way to kick off a busy Christmas morning than by snuggling up with a book before opening other gifts.
Writers give back
One of my favorite and most generous writer friends, the bestselling author Brad Meltzer, not only writes thrillers such as TK for adults, but has published a wonderful “I Am...” series of biographical books for very young readers telling the inspiring stories of people such as Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, and George Washington. His latest is, “I Am Sacagawea” (2017, Dial Books). When I reached out to Brad, asking him to share his thoughts on the importance of reading to – and with – children, he replied: “When you read to a child, you unleash real magic in the world: characters come alive, adventure unfolds – but the part they’ll never forget? That you’re right there with them. It’s the ultimate gift. For both of you.”
Spread and share literacy in your own way
Parents and caregivers can put a book on every bed in their own households; you can also help to spread the cause of literacy by generously sharing this idea in your own community. For families who celebrate through service projects, I suggest adopting a local classroom or day-care center and providing a book for each child to unwrap on Christmas morning.