Reading was very important to Anna. It is safe to say that reading gave her more pleasure than any other worldly activity. She was known as the girl that carried books wherever she went. They went with her to bed. They went with her to school. Whenever we got in the car, Anna would bring along three, four, or five books “just in case.” Her books were almost like an emergency kit. Samuel is learning now as a Boy Scout about “being prepared.” For Anna, that meant having some good reading with you.
I mention this because I was talking to a few people yesterday and today about Anna and the matter of reading came up. One of these people, after he heard some of my stories, remarked that he had read stories of the Puritans and how their children showed great evidences of regeneration at an early age. He always found them a little hard to believe, but then added that it seemed as if Anna showed those same evidences.
I don’t want to equate reading with faith. Many atheists are good readers, too. It’s just they have been reading the wrong books. But I will say this: that reading provides the reader a vocabulary for life. For the Christian, reading, and especially reading the word of God, gives the believer a vocabulary for faith.
Anna read a great many books during her brief life span. We have not tried to catalogue everything in her room, but I am certain that it is in the hundreds of books, and most of those she had read multiple times. Because of her reading, Anna had a much wider perspective on life than have many others, including adults. She had swum in some pretty deep waters even at nine years old.
Because of her reading, Anna had an awareness of what she was feeling and thinking and could relate her thoughts to a broader world. But perhaps more importantly, she had a vocabulary of words and expressions from which to draw to communicate those thoughts to others. Conversations were never boring or trivial with Anna.
I have written on this blog about how Anna learned to read and the importance of the word of God to Anna. I mention this again here to encourage all of us to read more. And not just to read more, but to read more good books. This will begin in large part by parents reading good classics to their children before they can read for themselves. It will mean parents modeling to the children that reading is important. It might even mean substituting evening television with family reading time. It was a sad time for me when the children began reading longer books on their own and stopped relying on our evening read aloud sessions for their literary intake. I began missing out on many good books because the children were reading on their own.
Those evening reading sessions did much for our family. Of course it encouraged the children to read. But it also provided us much to talk about. We never lacked for things to discuss, questions to raise, or just funny stories to tell and retell. I don’t know how many times I heard Samuel and Anna telling the Miller’s Tale with a great deal of vigor and much laughter by all. (Warning: we read an abridged version of the Canterbury Tales; the link here is to the original and it is quite a bit more “colorful” than ours.) But the most important thing that our reading time provided us was personal family time every night. We had actual contact with one another. We had times to talk together about things. Our family grew very tight during those evening reading sessions. I miss them now. But then again, there are many things I miss.