The reading season

The reading season

By Jan S. Gephardt

Our culture glorifies summer as the primary reading season. Perhaps based on the illusion that Americans still take vacations. And that they leave their electronic umbilicals behind, and read books on the beach instead.

Maybe that still happens sometimes. But for me, winter is the perfect reading season.

This image quote from Gustave Flaubert says, "What better occupation, really, than to spend the evening at the fireside with a book, with the wind beating on the windows and the lamp burning bright."
Image by Jan S. Gephardt

Like Flaubert, I love to curl up with a good book on a chilly evening. It’s my favorite evening nightcap. It’s also my preferred way to wake up. I like to surround myself with books.

I prefer (and will gladly pay for) the “dead-trees” variety, but my husband devours audio books by preference, and many of my friends and relatives insist on ebooks. No matter what sort of books form the “intellectual wallpaper” of your life, aren’t you the richer for them?

This quote from David Quammen says, “Of course anyone who truly loves books buys more of them than he or she can hope to read in one fleeting lifetime. A good book, resting unopened in its slot on a shelf, full of majestic potentiality, is the most comforting sort of intellectual wallpaper.”
Image by Jan S. Gephardt

Books can be companions. They can be doors and windows. Fiction can speak truths that mere facts can’t convey, and bless you with ideas and emotions–and the words for them–that you might not have imagined before.

Actually, anytime is good. And good for you.

Okay, full confession: in my opinion, anytime, and any season is a good time to read!

A little girl reads a book in a window nook between a built-in shelf and a cozy fire.
Image courtesy of Home Designing.

I don’t just say this because my sister and I have “tales to tell,” and we have books to sell, too. If you have bought one or both, thank you! But even if you haven’t, I dearly hope that you love to read. Because reading is actively good for you.

Reading increases empathy. it’s a great stress-reliever, it improves sleep, and keeps your mind sharper as you age. Reading fiction opens your mind, helps you cope, and improves both your vocabulary and your relationships. Finally, it also boosts your creativity, and all in all it helps keep you happier.

This quote from Ann Patchett says, "Reading fiction not only develops our imagination and creativity, it gives us the skills to be alone. It gives us the ability to feel empathy for people we've never met, living lives we couldn't possibly experience for ourselves, because the book puts us inside the character's skin."
Image courtesy of Buffer.

Reading is also good for kids

The same benefits that adults gain from reading fiction apply perhaps even more for children. Their world is just beginning to open up, so new ideas are even more powerful and formative. Kids who are avid readers also do better in school, and have a better grounding for moving forward into interesting productive, creative lives as adults.

The benefits of parents, grandparents, and other adults reading to children also are well-documented. As a parent and as a professional educator, I can strongly attest to the incalculable value and joy of reading to children.

This quote from Emilie Buchwald says, "Children are made readers on the laps of their parents."
Image by Jan S. Gephardt

Reading and storytelling is an inter-generational thing. That’s part of what makes it so powerful. The stories we read and tell our children have special impact.

I vividly remember my father telling me a wonderful story that I later realized was kind of a summary of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. And to this day we cherish many family stories that make earlier generations come to life again, for those of us who never had a chance to meet them–but who share their genes. Great stories enrich our lives and speak through the ages.

This quote from Ray Bradbury says, "The thing that makes me happy is that I know that on Mars, two hundred years from now, my books are going to be read. They'll be up on dead Mars with no atmosphere. And late at night, with a flashlight, some little boy is going to peek under the covers and read The Martian Chronicles on Mars."
Image courtesy of QuoteStats.

Consider how ancient some of our best-known stories are. Aesop’s Fables. Greek, Roman, and Norse mythology among Western cultures. Folktales, legends, and archetypal stories from everywhere. Anansi, Baba Yaga, Coyote and Raven, to barely start.

No matter what the reading season we’re in, we who read are all fellow voyagers on a library tour that never has to end. What fiction are you reading these days? How does it make you feel? What worlds has it opened? Share in the comments, if you wish!

IMAGE CREDITS: Many thanks to Jan S. Gephardt for the quotes from Gustave Flaubert, David Quammen, and Emilie Buchwald. The photo of the girl in the window nook is courtesy of Home Designing. The quote from Ann Patchett is from Buffer, and the Ray Bradbury quote is from QuoteStats. Many thanks to all!

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