Memories through reading

MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, CALIF. -- As a former bookstore manager and mother of two avid readers, Master Sgt. Welz knows the importance of reading to kids

In this day and age of advancing technology and multi-tasking, reading to children has been pushed to the end of our "to do" lists. But childhood is brief and reading is important. I say it's time to reprioritize.

Each year, on March 2nd, the birthday of Theodor Seuss Geisel (aka. Dr. Seuss), schools across the country celebrate the importance of by asking volunteers to visit local schools and read to students. This is was my third year taking part in this program.

As in past years, I was assigned to read at an elementary school. The kids seemed like they had a blast. It may be because they don't have to do any school work during the time I'm reading to them, but I like to think it's because I ask them questions while I'm reading to keep them involved and because I'm such an animated reader. The book I read to the kids this year had a section where one of the characters screamed. Likewise, I screamed, which scared the teacher and made her jump. The kids thought that was pretty funny.

I read to kids so they will be encouraged to continue reading and learning as they grow up. The late Dr. Seuss said, "The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go." That is so true.

A book or story can take you on an adventure, teach you creativity, tug at your heart, scare you beyond reality or inspire you to inspire others. It can encourage you, calm you, strengthen you as well as make you laugh or cry. There is so much to learn and experience through reading.

I remember reading to my mom while she was making dinner. I didn't read a story or a book, but ballot initiatives. She didn't have the time to read them herself. It doesn't sound very fun but it was time we spent together without my brother or sister. That time was special to me. I continued that tradition several years ago by having my firstborn read ballot initiatives to me. It continues now with my youngest. Not only does it give us time together, it's a learning experience we share and teaches them to educate themselves before voting.

Reading to kids and having them read to you builds rich family traditions and a lifetime of memories. I began reading to my kids while they were still in the womb. They both grew up being avid readers. I'm proud to say my oldest daughter has passed the love of reading on to her children.

I love giving books as a gift and also receiving books. I even managed a book store for several years. The most memorable Christmas present I received was a children's story book from my oldest daughter, "The Tale of Three Trees." She was 16 at the time and her sister was still an infant. She remembered me telling her it was a story I wanted to be able to read to my youngest. Her gift was a surprise that brought tears to my eyes.

Thirteen years later, as I prepared to read to elementary school children during Read Across America, my youngest said to me, "Our school doesn't participate in Dr. Seuss reading day, but even middle-schoolers still like to be read to."

Although technology allows us to read electronically, I think it's important to treasure those books with great stories and illustrations. Children love the interaction. I, for one, will carry on my family tradition of reading for as long as I am able. When I am old and gray, memories of the books I read will remain with me. And if those memories fail me, I can always read them again.