An interesting article came across my social media feed, “A home library can have a powerful effect on children”, that resonated with me.
My brother and I grew up without much; an old wood stove, a couple of couches, an old sink, with no bathroom, only an old toilet bowl outside our studio that was shared by others. We rarely could afford new clothes, or a toy, but one thing we had in abundance was old books. We had over 2,000!
In Belgrade, you could buy old books on every corner from independent book enthusiasts who drag their old books out and stack them up on the sidewalk. You could find any genre you could think of in those stacks. From Russian, English, French and American classics, to well known philosophers, novelists, scientists, psychologists, and biographies of the world leaders.
My dad was not much of a handyman, but he was gifted at arguing, reading books and playing chess. Those were his default states. He was also a gifted story teller. He could explain things in parables as if he was related to Jesus. Much of that love for reading and story telling has passed on to my brother and I. That is, my brother loved reading and I loved telling stories, or rather making them up.
The vast number of books in our apartment, which were covered up by the old and ugly wallpaper and was always peeling at the edges due to humidity and mold, attracted my brother. He would often get so immersed that he would forget to eat, drink, or sleep. Many nights he stayed up reading until dawn. I, on the other hand, could have cared less about reading. And when I did read, I would go for how-to-hypnotize-someone-in-5-minutes type of books. I wish I was joking! But, that’s not to say that seeing my father and brother read surrounded by a home library, did not rub off on me. It caught up with me later, in my college years.
“A book is man’s best friend” my father’s words resonated in my head when I came to America as a seventeen year old running away from the civil war that was raging in the former Yugoslavia. And every time a wave of nostalgia washed over me I would find comfort in the walls of the university’s library. The mere sight and smell of books help me relax and calm my soul.
Since contact with my family and friends back home was only through snail mail, I found myself spending much of my time at the library. And although I couldn’t speak a word of English upon my arrival, that did not stop me from graduating from college three years later with degree in mathematics.
Now, fast forward 20 years, my (at the time) 14-year-old son requested a separate bedroom from his 5 year younger brother. So, we cleaned up our old office leaving the walls covered with all the books my husband and I had accumulated over the years. You could find books on programming languages, math, science, statistics, physics, philosophy, foreign languages, psychology, religion, classic novels, biographies, Sci-fi fiction and of course self-help books.
One time you can imagine my surprise when I saw my brother’s dissertation on “Self-consistent Models of Triaxial Elliptical Galaxies With Central Cusps” laying open on my son’s bed. I am embarrassed to admit that I have not read it. Nor so much as took a glance at it! Just reading the title feels overwhelming! And I don’t think that’s a full title either! You catch my drift?
When I asked him about it, he said he found his uncle’s writings interesting. Say what!? Alright, I knew my son was special; as a toddler he was drawing perfect circles simultaneously with both hands. And he could read by the age of four. He won art show awards in his elementary school. He also did, less noble things like hacked into the security system of his private middle school. But finding a dissertation in higher mathematics interesting at fourteen when most of the kids his age are thinking about girls, is quite remarkable.
Fast forward two years... to last night, midnight to be exact. I was working late, when I heard the elephant steps running down the stairs excitedly telling me that he proved a theorem!
God help me! I pretended to listen for 10 min until he fought his breath and I took that as the opportunity to say, can you forward me the pdf so I can look at it in the morning. “Look at it” translates into forwarding it to my math PhD advisor and a chairman “screaming” for help!
My younger son, the eleven year old, is more attracted to playing video games than reading, but then he too can pleasantly surprise me, like the other day when he chose to read “The Hate You Give” by Angie Thomas at the local bookstore.
So there, friends, if you want your kids to appreciate reading and hopefully take interest in active learning, make the room they spend the most time in a library!