Reading and Spirituality

by PammyMcB

My mother and grandmother are responsible for teaching me to read. Soon after I learned to talk, Mom taught me my ABC’s by using the ABC song. Before I turned four, Mom says I learned to read Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik, which was my first book. I remember Mom and Grandma always had more than enough books for us to read, but that did not stop me for begging for a new book every time we visited the local five and dime. I remember Grandma and Mom reading to my sister and I with expression and different voices for each character. Grandma also bought us a monthly subscription to Highlights magazine, which I loved. Once she had personalized books made for us. Other personal library books that I owned were the Dr. Seuss books, a Bible stories book, and several Little Golden Books. However, my favorite books were the Disney books that came with a thirty-three inch vinyl record. They were read along books that would ding when it was time to turn the page. I also remember my sister and I watched quite a bit of “Sesame Street,” “The Electric Company,” and “Zoom,” because Mom always had the television tuned in to PBS (there was no cable back then).

When I first began school, everything I learned from watching “Sesame Street” was reinforced at school. Our teachers had oversized air-filled letter characters from the show. We would listen to songs and stories featuring the letter of the week. Then, we would be given a coloring sheet with the letter on it and would color it in class. It would go home with us, and we would use magazines and catalogues to cut out pictures of items and people, which began with the featured letter. These were pasted on the coloring sheet and returned to school. Once we arrived, we were called in front of the class to explain what items were on our sheets. As I progressed in elementary school, I remember singing and singing. We would sing of stories we read, sing about grammar rules, and sing tongue twisters. The first readers I used were the Dick, Jane, and Spot readers. I also remember the very first time I was asked to diagram a sentence was in the third grade. My teachers read to us in class, and had each student to take turns reading aloud. Throughout school, I had both oral and non-oral book reports due in class. When we had an oral report over an autobiography, the teacher would have us to dress up like the character we had read and written about. Off-hand, the only instructional strategy that I did not enjoy much was writing the vocabulary sentences five times each. Due to there always being twenty words, I was often up past bedtime working on the sentences. Overall, the teachers seemed to believe that the way to get a child in my elementary school to learn to read was to use a lot of repetition, as well as to reinforce what we may have seen elsewhere.

There was not much to do when the weather was bad so we read the same books over and over again. Some of the ones I enjoyed most were the illustrated Bible stories that filled our library. I grew up reading these books, which I feel gave me a good Christian foundation to build upon. Literacy further strengthened this foundation, because I was able to sing hymns that were lesser known to me. Singing has always been my outlet, and songs help me work through problems and emotions that I may face. Today, reading impacts my spiritual life by bringing me even closer to life as a Christian. Through reading I get more of a sense of what my role as a Christian is in the world. Furthermore, reading has given me more of an outlook on where we have been as a human race and how far we have come. It also gives me insight into how much farther we have to go as Christians in this mixed up world that we live in. I also enjoy reading books on Christianity and faith, such as Pilgrim Heart and Extravagant Grace. This, too, gives me more insight into God’s will for us as Christians.

Insight is what I get most from reading. Therefore, I love to read and encourage reading in my home. My children and I choose short stories, which we read to one another at least once a week. I read a variety of materials, such as magazine articles, research articles, novels, poetry, plays, scientific magazines, books on faith, non-fiction (mostly historical), and even children’s books. Yes, I did say children’s books; I like to know what my children are reading. I have found if we have read the same book, it can help foster many discussions. I am fairly secure with my ability to read a variety of texts that affect my daily life.