by Paula Gail Benson
My mother told me when I was a baby, I was fascinated by words. She said, as I rode in the car, if I saw a sign with a message, I would point to it and say, “Read.”
I remember having many favorite Little Golden Books (including retellings of Walt Disney movies) that my father read to me. Very often, when he reached the end, I turned the book back to the first page and said, “Again.”
As you can see, I was a demanding child. To my parents’ credit, they were indulgent in reading (multiple times) to me.
There is something about words that is magical. Words allow us to share a connection over distances of both time and location.
So many have been delighted by the musical Hamilton. While it employs some “modern” techniques to convey the history, the bond with the characters is established by the use of their own words taken from contemporaneous documents.
Hearing or reading a story in a safe environment lets you experience it all the more vividly and consider the emotions and reactions of the characters involved. Theater and movies make an impression because the audience members allow themselves to become captivated by the story being presented.
In school, I learned about the cave paintings found in Lascaux Caves in France. Sometimes called the “prehistoric Sistine Chapel,” these drawing are estimated to be 17,000 years old. The people who by candle light, discovered them thought they were encountering real animals and were amazed by the size and accuracy of the depictions. I think those drawings were significant for both the tellers and the listeners. The hunters, in remembering the events of the day, could take the time to reflect on how they had been challenged and used their skills to be successful in the hunt. (Maybe even embellish the tale to celebrate their return!) Through the telling and depictions, the listeners, who had remained behind, hoping for food for nourishment and skins for clothing, while worrying about the hunters’ safety, could relive the excitement of the chase, knowing that their loved ones were safe among them.
Recently, I’ve become involved with My First Books SC, an initiative of the Palmetto Project and affiliate of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. The purpose of the organization is to send books to children free of charge from birth to age five. The books selected contain questions in the back to provide discussion topics for the parents or others reading to the children. Any child registered for the program receives the books without charge. I’m so happy to be part of this effort to continue the tradition of helping children realize the importance of words. Do you have a similar or affiliated program in your state? It is a great way to encourage literacy.
During this Thanksgiving week, I’m grateful for so many things, but near the top of that list is the appreciation for storytelling and the joy of reading. Thanks to Dolly Parton and so many others who pass that joy to a new generation.