Pass down a love of reading

Published 9:46 am Wednesday, October 21, 2015

“Katy did; no she didn’t,” Mamaw chimed in her singsong voice as I lay next to her on the screened in sleeping porch. “Do you hear them, Jan? The katydids are telling us goodnight.”

“Mamaw, I hear them! But could you tell me just one more story please?” And she always did. Never once in my storehouse of precious memories relating to my maternal grandmother do I remember an answer of no when I asked for one more story. She always had a tale poised and waiting on her lips. They began, as most good stories do, with “once upon a time” and ended with “they all lived happily ever after.”

Most of Mamaw’s stories taught a life lesson within the winding plot. Now, I am the grandmother, and oftentimes my stories follow the same vein as my grandmother’s did so many years ago. My 5-year-old grandson, Gauge, loves a good story as much as I did at his age.

Gauge often collaborates with me on our tales. He loves to pick the characters and setting. Our conversation usually goes something like this.

“Gigi, will you tell me a story?”

“Sure, Gauge. What kind of story would you like?”

“Well…why don’t you tell one about Gauge and a wolf? Don’t forget that Gauge is the superhero and rescues a little girl from that bad old wolf!”

Many hours are whiled away in this world of make-believe. The love of story was passed from my grandmother to me. It skipped the generation of my own mother, but I took up the torch when I had children. Now my son and daughter are helping to pass a love of story and reading to my children’s children.

In this age of all things electronic, I’m happy that some people still love a good story with a happy ending. There is always room for our imaginations to soar above the mundane everydayness that life sometimes brings, to a place where all is bright and beautiful.

When I taught school, I was always distressed when little ones came to school and told about the horror films they had seen with their parents’ knowledge. For one thing, their little minds didn’t need to be filled with such horrible images. And for another, they should have been safely tucked in their beds dreaming sweet dreams long before the movie’s end.

If I sound like I’m meddling, that’s sometimes what retired schoolteachers tend to do. Many studies of reading/storytelling show that significant educational benefits are derived from these simple acts.

I believe that children gain much not only from the act of story telling, but also from the gift of time, which boosts their self-esteem. Why not turn off the computer games and television long enough to fill some little mind with a story that ends with “and they all lived happily ever after”?

Jan Penton Miller can be reached at