My son and I covet books, often each other’s. We hound libraries, beg to own each other’s books and haunt second-hand bookstores for treasures that can be found there.
I will share some of my all-time favourite classics for those of you still reading to your own children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews or borrowed ones.
The first full-length child’s “novel” we read “chapter by chapter” was Casey, the Utterly Impossible Horse. Clayten was four, and after that, we left Dr. Suess, Disney picture books and the Golden Books behind. We bought chapter books at garage sales, second-hand bookstores and always had one on the go. We laughed through Roahl Dahl’s BFG, and I won’t tell you what my adult foul mind imagined the acronym BFG standing for. Dahl’s book Matilda came alive and made us cheer for the heroine in that story before Danny Devito and Rhea Perlman ever hit the big screen with the movie. C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia gave us months of pleasure and in-depth discussions on metaphors and underlying meaning when he was six and seven. Consequently, his comprehension skills far surpassed all of his peers. His first and second-grade teachers raved about his ability to sit still and listen to stories, repeating the content almost word for word.
Our all-time favourite was Elizabeth Winthrop’s book Castle in the Attic. Now that was a book that guaranteed miracles. Clayten was very strong-willed to the point of it being a daily war to convince him to eat breakfast on most school mornings. Like most children, asking him to put his toys away enough to vacuum his rug on weekends also became an ordeal. A promised extra chapter in any current book was like offering free gold to a poor man.
It also meant that we both sat down amid hectic-ness for 15-20 minutes of quiet entertainment. Not to mention that carefully chosen books embedded with subtle morality lessons helped me convince him of many things without being a heavy-handed parent.
Books became my ticket to easy parenting. I only tried withholding a bedtime story once due to undesirable behaviour. I never again was so foolish. That resulted in a tantrum full tilt for destruction, the likes I had never seen before and never witnessed after that.
Books were the one constant that Clayten and I could rely on as a bridge if we were at odds with each other. Discussion starters, morality builders, door openers to the world, zoos on paper and history lessons that went beyond reading. The topics became subject material for long drives and our walks to school.
Sound perfect? Well, except for one thing. In grades one and two, being at the top of his class in comprehension did not spare him the discomfort and frustrations of delayed reading abilities. Experts on child literacy cite early picture books as an essential reading stage for literacy development. Deciphering 2-5 lines of black dots and squiggles on picture book pages defied him.
Sixteen years after he crawled into my lap with Dr. Suess Put Me Into The Zoo, I can still recite the first eight pages of that book by heart. That was the first book he ever sat still for. He was 20 months old. After that, books were magic. They could dry tears better than a pacifier. Change a mood faster than Alberta weather. Books could see morning chores done in a jiffy if that meant there was time to read an extra chapter before school. We once were both so enraptured with Winthrop’s book that we read it while walking to school, Clayten guiding my footsteps if there were obstacles on the sidewalk. We both yelled aloud when William used the medallion in a way we never imagined. Winthrop deserved the multiple awards her book won.
Cultivating A Reading Habit for Yourself
Now, how can you train an adult to read? You can’t unless you are the adult you want to train. We can only change ourselves. How do you create a reading habit for yourself?
First, you need to have a why for motivation. If any of you are familiar with the book Miracle Morning, Hal Elrod mentions the acronym SAVERS. Each letter stands for the habits of successful people.
S - Silence
A - Affirmations
V - Visualizations
E - Exercise
R - Reading
S - Scribing
These are the top things in common with the most successful people in the world; most of them do all six things every morning. You can listen to the podcast/YouTube with Elrod interviewing one of my favourite people, Dr. Mindy Pelz.
If that fails to rev up a reason for you to develop a consistent reading habit of non-fiction, one of the following may inspire you. You can also use my reading habit of five to ten pages of non-fiction in the morning. Much like you eat an elephant or accomplish a big goal, one bite at a time and break up the big goal into manageable steps and processes.
My favourite book on the emotional and mental aspects of the various common illnesses is by Dr. Gabor Maté. His chapter on the good girl disease of breast cancer blew my mind when I was going through chemotherapy in 2003. I still like saying the longest word I know that I learned from his book: PsychoNeuroImmunoEndocrinology meaning that every emotion and thought is a biological chemical event in the physical body. When the Body Says No, The Hidden Costs of Stress. The rest of his chapters were excellent and highly readable.
My favourite book on writing is by Dorothea Brande: Becoming a Writer. Written in 1937, she is brilliant on how anyone can become a writer with practice. Watch this short Ted Talk on how this speaker debunks the 10,000-hour myth, says you can learn anything in 20 days, and then demonstrates his skills at one thing he tackled and learned well.
My second favourite book on writing and the resistance we all face when creating something is by Steven Pressfield, The War of Art. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott will make you laugh out loud about the travesties and joys of writing. I could go on. Just ask me if you want more of my favourites.
My favourite book for simplifying your life (bonus, I have three here that I read in tandem that inspired my last blog on “Living for Less, Relaxing More.”
An interesting science trivia book that is quite readable and will provide valuable tidbits on a wide variety of subject topics for random conversations is David Bodanis’ The Secret Family.
A classic on the manifestation of health and wealth is As A Man Thinketh by James Allen. It uses archaic language, but don’t give up on it. I believe it may be more valuable than Wallace D Wattle’s book, Bob Proctor's work on The Science of Getting Rich, or even Maxwell Maltz’s book Psychocybernetics, which I reread occasionally.
My current night read is a memoir of a Morrocan woman about her mother and five siblings imprisoned for twenty years. Malika Oufkir’s La Prisonniere: Twenty Years in a Desert Gaol. I know it isn’t fiction. Memoirs can read like fiction and be fascinating.
Debbie Ford’s The Dark Side of the Light Chasers is my morning non-fiction read for self-development.
I enjoy fiction or a riveting memoir at night, reading every genre except horror or nightmarish content. Our brains are more receptive to taking in knowledge when we first wake. We all have 365 mornings a year. At an average of 5-10 pages a morning and the average book at 200 pages, we can polish off 18 books a year in digestible bites that enhance retention. Often, when a book is inspiring, I will read more. You can think about, absorb, apply and insert into conversations in your day, riff off your learnings for your blogs or social media, further cementing your new knowledge deeper.
Reference links in the body of the story above:
podcast/YouTube Elrod interviews Dr. Mindy Pelz.
Dorothea Brande: Becoming a Writer.
Ted Talk debunks the 10,000-hour myth Steven Pressfield
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
The Circle of Simplicity: Return to the Good Life by Cecile Andrews
Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin
The Joy of Not Working by Ernie Zelinsky
David Bodanis’ The Secret Family by James Allen.
Maxwell Maltz’s book Psychocybernetics
Malika Oufkir’s La Prisonniere: Twenty Years in a Desert Gaol.
Debbie Ford’s The Dark Side of the Light Chasers
Learn more about Rusti:
Rusti L Lehay, a global editor and book and writing coach, created over 40 articles guiding writers to authordom. Witnessing writers find and speak in their own voice to serve the real boss, the audience, not the editor, is one of Rusti’s greatest joys. She offers bi-monthly online writing STAY-Treats and monthly lounges and teaches weekly creative writing classes. Her primary mission is to inspire, provide value and make writing fun and easy.
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