Monday, August 5, 2013

Attention, parents: Give your kids a book

(Originally published in the Bargain Hunter on August 2, 2013)

An old classmate of mine posted on Facebook the eulogy he and his brothers and sisters wrote for their mother’s funeral.

It was a great piece of writing, delivered I believe by the oldest of the 10 siblings – yes, that’s right, 10 – and it contained some wonderful insight on good parenting, which is something that seems to be lacking in this upside down day and age we live in.

By no means am I any kind of expert on parenting. I made my mistakes certainly, but then so has every other parent. I take solace in that. Show me a perfect parent and I’ll show you a liar.

Here’s part of the eulogy for my classmate’s mom, whose name was Ruth:

“She was a reader. Libraries were her Windsor Castle, her Taj Mahal. 

As a girl, she and her three sisters and brother wore out their library cards. They strolled down the street with their books open before them, and one time Ruth bumped into a telephone pole.

She taught her children to do the same. Not bumping into things, but going to the library. She loved libraries so much she worked in them for decades.

She read books to all of us as young children and made readers of all of us. And at the end, when her eyesight failed, we read to her.

“She was a writer. She had always wanted to get published. She subscribed to magazines aimed at freelance writers and had some pieces make it into print. Her real gift, though, showed itself in the hundreds, the thousands of letters she wrote to us while we were away in the Army or in college, or in the Peace Corps.

“Or the ones she sent to her siblings and friends.

These letters were filled with wisdom and meditations on living a meaningful life. They displayed her strong religious faith…”

Reading. It’s important.

Get it?

My parents, too, were voracious readers. My first task at the breakfast table was to read a story in the Cleveland Plain Dealer that my father found to be important. But it was my mother who nurtured the process.

When I was six, Mom gave me the best book ever – “The Cat in the Hat,”  which was written, I would learn later, as an alternative to the boring “Dick and Jane” books that were creating – get this – a reading crisis among American schoolchildren.

“The Cat in the Hat,” authored by Theodor Geisel (writing as Dr. Seuss), was different from other books in that it showed a couple of latchkey kids under the influence of a playful, chaotic visitor.

“What would you tell your mother?” the book asks at the end.

The book, released in 1957, has sold 12 million copies worldwide and still is among the top books recommended for children.

I loved “The Cat in the Hat” and read it so many times that the cover finally came loose and had to be taped back on.

According to Wikipedia (phooey on those who say you shouldn’t use the website as a credible source), “The Cat in the Hat” is “1,629 words in length and uses a vocabulary of only 236 distinct words, of which 54 occur once and 33 twice. Only a single word – another – has three syllables, while 14 have two and the remaining 221 are monosyllabic. The longest words are something and playthings.”

It was an easy read.

Fast forward to 2013 and the back-to-school season, and you’ll find many parents focused on making sure their kids have the latest in fashion and technology.

For goodness’ sake, don’t forget to encourage them to read. Buy the young ones books and more books. Read to the tots. Explain the importance of reading to teenagers, many of whom readily admit they’d rather play video games than read.

If you can’t read, you can’t write. And if you can do neither, you are doomed to failure. Trust me on this, Mom and Dad. Teach your kids to read.

Ruth would understand.

Read more from Dick Farrell at

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Glad to see you're back. And I couldn't agree more with this post.