It is always a scary and sometimes terrifying event to start a new school. True, it has been a while (we won’t mention just how long) since I’ve had to do that, but some things never change. Unfamiliar surroundings, new kids to get to know, schedules to learn, new teachers; it can be a very difficult time for most kids. I’d like to suggest that as we fill our carts with pencils, paper, binders, and scissors, that we do not forget one important item: books. Not school books, books for entertainment.
When I was going into the 5th grade, I was beginning my third school in five years in a very small farming community. I was very nervous to say the least. There were only twenty eight kids in my class, less than half of them boys. What if no one liked me? What if I had nothing in common with anyone? Luckily, I had a wonderful teacher. Mrs. Jacobson was a tough old school teacher who had been at it forever. Everyday she took time to read the class a book aloud. This was wonderful. Not only did it give me an escape during the day, an escape where I didn’t have to worry about making new friends (or math, which I am no good at), it provided some common ground with other kids. Sure, some kids weren’t the least bit interested in this, but those that were quickly became my friends. It appeared that I did have something in common with them after all. A few of them liked me enough to become my good friends all the way through high school. It may sound silly, but reading books was that important to me.
I continued this tradition even as I got older. Not necessarily reading aloud in class, but reading in general. This always has been a comfort zone for me, helping me escape in difficult and trying times. My first year at college was very stressful, as it is for all freshmen away from home for the first time. I spent a lot of time rereading J.R.R. Tokien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. It gave me comfort as well as a sense of familiarity. It was an escape from the stress of adjusting to college and meeting new people. It was also common ground with some kids on my floor that I became friends with.
So, I urge parents and children alike, as the back to school hustle and bustle begins, don’t forget to throw a book or two in the cart, or download an ebook for your electronic reading device or smart phone. At worst, it will provide entertainment somewhere down the line. At best, it may provide a stable, settling influence and escape in the otherwise stressful and uncertain world of a child going back to school, as well as a lifelong love of reading.
Some of you may need recommendations for entertaining books to read during the coming school year. Others may already have a list of favorite books, either from your school years or later. If so, please share in your comments. One of us may write another post featuring those books. Thanks!