What good is reading?

What good is reading?

When a young man at a school visit once asked me those words, I spent some time mulling–and then talking about–what reading has brought into my life.

1) Knowledge and skills.  My dad was able to harness the power of this waterfall and put in a mill to grind grain for the Maji area because he was a reader. (In this case, he read an out-of-date encyclopedia, yet).  Another waterfall gave us running water.  I loved those Maji waterfalls.

2.  Curiosity.  Being a reader and a writer makes me more curious about my world.  Not all the kids I met in Denver or Atlanta knew what monarch caterpillars have to have to survive–even though they all knew that orangutans must have trees to survive. So much to learn about our world!   (I didn’t know about monarch caterpillars, either, until I started writing the Lanie books.)

3.  Empathy.  Good readers imagine themselves into the skin of another human being.  For three years, I’ve showed this picture of second graders in a great Atlanta school as I’ve talked about how readers connect with lives in many places, many circumstances.

This week, I did an author visit and met those same three girls…now as fifth graders.  I can tell from talking with their class that they are still reading, still writing, still thinking.

At the American Girl store on Sunday, I met the girl in the top picture who decided her Lanie doll should look more like her.  That’s another thing reading gave me.  When I read about Janie Moffatt and Jo in Little Women and Laura in the Little House books, I felt better about not being the good kid of my family.

I hope all kids all over the world will some day have the chance to read books about kids with lives different from theirs and also kids who are just like them.

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