Is it good to love reading?


Is it good for children to love reading? The question sounds blasphemous, doesn’t it? Obviously we want children to love reading. Do we want them to really love it, though, in an English major sort of way?

When I was a child, my parents sometimes had to force me to put down a book to go outside to play. Playing outside was fine, especially if other kids were involved, but it also came with the risk of bee stings and scraped knees. Books provided adventure from the safety of my favorite rocking chair, a place I spent so much time that I started to wear holes in the tan fabric. I sometimes found the clever middle ground and carried my book outside, plopped down on our front steps and reopened it. I was outside, wasn’t I?

Eleanor is also the sort of child who has to be forced to put down her book, whether to play outside or come to the table for dinner. She told me on the walk to school a few days ago that she wants to learn to read really big books, the kind that I read. Has she already tired of her collection of Boxcar Children and Magic Treehouse books? First-graders are so jaded these days.

I know that a love of reading is linked to success in school and also to greater empathy. Plus, I want to be able to discuss books with Eleanor someday. But as we walked, I pondered how I could work math into our conversations more often. It’s okay to love books, just not too much. Love something else with better employment prospects, Honey!

Fortunately, Eleanor is only 7 and has already declared her intentions to be an artist. (That’s a relief!) Reading is great for school and great for a hobby but not so great for finding work. Not that money is everything, but when I consider my friends, I would say that reading has a negative correlation with income. The more we read, the less we earn. Far better to like books and love math or science, it would seem. Though I imagine that many of you would defend reading to the end because of the way it enriches your lives.

So, is reading worth it? Or does it lead to a lifetime of suffering at jobs where you are undervalued?

Speaking up

Every few months, I read a new essay about stillbirth. Almost inevitably, the title is “Breaking the Silence of Stillbirth.” In fact, I have written one of these essays myself. Women and families should be sharing these stories, over and over again, because stillbirth remains a hidden problem. Yet, I always find myself wanting more after reading these essays. Once we have said that stillbirth is a problem, what do we do about it?

I have a piece up today at the Washington Post about what comes next. I’ve talked with some leading stillbirth experts about what the United States needs to do to tackle this problem. In countries where the government has made stillbirth reduction a priority, the rates have fallen dramatically.

Please share this story. If you have the time, register at the Post so you can leave a comment. Onward!

Thoughts lately

I’ve been a bad blogger lately, and if that isn’t enough, I’m now going to give you a roundup of blurbs. Perhaps I need to sell it better. Thought nuggets? At any rate, here are a bunch of things that I’ve considered blogging about but haven’t had the time.

* Let me profess my love for writer Pamela Colloff. Every time I start one of her pieces, I vow that I will read only the first few sentences and then save the rest for later. I never save it for later. The Reckoning is about a woman who was hit during the UT Tower shooting in 1966. She was nine months pregnant, and while she survived, her baby was stillborn. No one talked about her son. She never had the chance to grieve. And that one event shaped her entire life in some sad ways. The story is well worth your time, and though our society still has far to go when it comes to acknowledging stillbirth, we have seriously progressed since the 1960s.

* We took the kids to a pioneer festival over the weekend where they got to churn butter, make rag dolls and scrub clothes on a washboard. It made me yearn for a simpler life. People could really see the purpose of their labor back then. All of the work benefitted either the family or other people in town. That kind of life seems much more centered around relationships and service. But I wouldn’t go back. I really enjoy refrigeration. And Tylenol.

* Eleanor has wanted to talk about the election, which I want to fully support. Friends, what do I say about Donald Trump? In theory, elections are about choosing the person who you think is best able to tackle the country’s problems. I’ve told her that one of the candidates is a bully and calls people names, that if she ever behaved that way she would get into a lot of trouble. Would you let your children watch him on TV? I don’t think that I would. She wants to know how such a mean person can be considered for president. Ummm…

* On the opposite end of the spectrum, I have bought both “Between the World and Me” and “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” and I’m looking forward to both of them. I’m on the last few pages of the final book of the Neapolitan Novels, and I’m frustrated with the choices that the characters are making. I guess it says something that I care so much, but I’m not sure that is an endorsement of the books.