Give me a choice of ways to spend a winter day with the snow falling quietly outside, and I'll grab a book and let the rest of you grab your skis.
I know precisely when this love of reading came to me. It was in the second grade in Boulder City, Nev., when Mom got me my first library card and I checked out Red Riding Hood. (I already knew the plot and wanted something I could handle.) Mom later became a librarian in Provo, proving there is indeed a Providence that blesses good people.I think the love of reading was the best gift she ever gave me.
OK, pay attention. We're about to discuss a way YOU can do the same for your children. And we'll do it with the newspaper. The world is full of things to read, but you have a newspaper in your hand now, don't you?
Think of the advantage you have. The kids see you reading and enjoying it, and they want to do the same. So take them aside and start reading to them right from the newspaper. It's amazing what you can find that they would like to read when you start looking for it.
I'll get you started. In last Thursday's paper I found a number of stories I'll bet your kids would have been interested in. Like these:
- How the Santa's Helping Hand began. It started with a little boy named Stanley, who had a severe kidney ailment. His plight touched Bob Mitchell's heart here at the paper, and Bob got the staff to help out. "We were really scrambling. I collected money from the staff - and my pockets were just bulging. Then I borrowed a couple of staffers to help me and we shopped fast, calling businesses to get better buys and make the money stretch. . . ."
- Eddie Murphy buying Cher's home for $6 million because he "wanted homes on both coasts." What a great discussion of values that would be with your kid.
- A wonderful picture of five dolphins playing tag with a British submarine. Couldn't they make up a story about that?
- For drama, how about the three prisoners who tried to fly out of the Nuevo Laredo jail in Mexico on crude hang gliders made from bed sheets and strips of wood. Would your kid try that? Well, these guys are in the hospital now.
- Kids like gross things, so they'd like the story about park workers in Kansas who sprayed Christmas trees with a chemical that, when heated above 50 degrees, starts smelling like rotten eggs. That's cut tree thefts.
- We have a little short feature called "No Kidding." Ask your kids what they think were the biggest school discipline problems in the 1940s. The feature listed them in this order: talking, chewing gum, making noise and running in the hallways. Now ask the kids what the biggest problem is in THEIR school. Be prepared to be enlightened.
- And do you know why those things are called Fig Newtons? After the hometown of a cookie maker. Do you think a cookie called Fig Bountiful would fly? How about Fig Sandy?
- Ask the kids what they would do if everyone had to leave school at once. It happened to Murray's Parkside Elementary. The 600 kids walked five blocks to the junior high while a leaking gas line was repaired.
- This next could be a bit tricky. Who does most of the chores around the house, Mom or Dad? Or Mom or kid? That ought to generate a lot of heat, because this story said American women do two hours of housework for every one hour put in by a man. But times are changing. In 1965, the ratio was 6 to 1. An editorial page cartoon put it this way, showing a forlorn woman in a messy kitchen: "The best way for a housewife to have a little time to herself is to start doing the dishes," she says.
- Of course, the great newspaper hangout for kids is the comics page. Do some browsing here. Younger kids will love the "Family Circus," where Jeffy stares at his plate and says, "We asked God to bless this LAST night." A bit older and kids become "Bloom County" fans, commiserating with Opus, the penguin who just got his schnozz liposuctioned in a back alley. And they'll probably all like "The Far Side" (we kids like weird stuff).
- Finally, you could spend time reading the TV page picks of the night's viewing choices. Let the kids choose a show, something like the Muppet Family Christmas.
We've only gotten started and I have to quit. But be assured that all this is no idle interest on our part. We want your kids to have an affair with reading. The Deseret News is wholeheartedly into teaching reading. Under our Newspaper in Education program, the state's biggest and best, we send thousands of newspapers into the classrooms, prepare teaching aids, sponsor workshops and participate in the nationwide "Family Focus" with the International Reading Association, PTAs, school principals and newspaper publishers.
If you want some pretty good tips on things your and your kids could do together, write to the NIE, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, UT, 84110.
Take it from me. It could be the one gift from you that will mean the most to them years from now.