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I sat on the curb in front of a government office in Pemba, Mozambique. Years of living in Africa have taught me to carry a book to keep me distracted from the inefficiencies of bureaucracy. After a few minutes of reading, I stretched and stood up. A young Mozambican man walked up to me and said, “You Americans sure seem to read a lot. How many books do you think you’ve read in your lifetime… ten?” “Oh,” I said with a smile. “More than that.” That began an interesting conversation about literacy, habits and why certain cultures value reading more than others.
One of my favorite things about Story Warren is the way that it encourages parents and children to read… and read well. But, that being said, there may come a time when we need to tell our kids to stop.
I went to a small Christian school through elementary grades (my Mom was even my 3rd grade math teacher!). But in 7th grade I started going to a large public Middle School. It was intimidating and unsettling, to say the least. I didn’t know anyone and for months I made sure to take a book with me to school to have something to ‘do’ to fill those awkward ‘I’m a new kid and I don’t know anyone so reading this book gives me something to distract me’ moments. I can still remember checking to make sure that Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time was in the front pocket of my backpack before catching the bus.
Midway through the school year, though, I slid into my seat in History class, picked up my book and began my ritual of reading a few pages while waiting for the bell to ring. But then I noticed something. Every single one of the kids around me was engaged in conversations with each other and here I was with my nose in a book. It hit me that if I wanted to make any real friends I needed to put the book down. For a few days, I brought the book to read only in case I ‘really needed it’ but after a few weeks I made myself leave the book at home – that was going to be the only way to break the ‘reading habit.’
Now I would love to tell you that as soon as I implemented my commitment device of leaving the book at home, I was suddenly laughing and joking around with my new best buddies… but the fact is that it took time to make friends. I’ve wondered how different my story would have been, though, if I had never had the courage to leave the book at home.
My daughters love books and I’m thrilled to watch them discover the treasure troves to be found between the pages. But, ultimately, my hope is that they’ll have a healthy balance – that they’ll know both the joys of reading and that they’ll know when to put the book down.
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Featured Image by Erin Tegeler