Nov 15, 2013

The Power of Reading

"If only Jupiter would restore me those bygone years"

Every reader probably remembers the first book they read. The first time they were able to read on their own. Their first complete chapter book, and then their first complete series. Those achievements that seemed so constant when younger, and have become further and further apart as time takes hold and you begin to grow older. And somewhere among those, hopefully toward the beginning, sits a book or two that helped inspire you to become a reader. I've talked before about my favorites through the ages but this is something different, something more of a spark to light a fuse and less the fireworks that ensued.

Because I have a hard time being succinct when I discuss the things I am passionate about, I've recruited the assistance of the wonderful Josh and Sara here at Scarletta to give their input and keep my long-winded speeches at bay.

The Berenstain Bears and the Lonely Nightlight

Imagine this: A small girls’ room with a yellow lace-covered canopy bed, small writing desk and green 
shag carpet. This was my bedroom as a little girl growing up in Chicago. As a child, I had tremendous allergies. My mother discovered my allergies not because I was sneezing or coughing throughout the day, but because she saw a small light come from under my door at 2 AM. I could not sleep. At two years old, I would lay in my bed with a stuffed up nose trying to breath. What could I do? I could not get up and make warm milk or take a bath. 

Instead I turned to a new friend: The Berenstain Bears book series. The books follow the Bear family as they deal with life’s issues such as the first day of school, sickness, and following the rules. I took one book off the shelf and then two and three. After a few days, I had a stack of 10-20 books. 

Suddenly, I could breath!! 

However, when my mother saw that lonely nightlight there was trouble.  Jan and Stan Berenstain ignited my love for reading. Eventually my allergies stopped but my love of reading has continued. My favorite authors include Margaret Atwood, Maya Angelou, and F. Scott Fitzgerald but the Berenstain’s will always hold a special place in my heart. 

-Sara Lien Edelman


I believe every person should have an I CAN READ memory. I don’t mean a specific moment they can pinpoint as the beginning of their reading journey. Rather, I’m referring to the very specific, delightful series of books from HarperCollins back in the  early 90s. The I CAN READ series is full of books that have been appropriately leveled for various ages and reading levels. Among the abundance of titles, The Golly Sisters Go West is one that I can highlight as a true reading inspiration. Originally published in 1986, the Golly Sisters series involved a theatrical pair of siblings, May-May and Rose,
traveling all over the Midwest to put on shows and get into scuffles. I was so drawn to their enthusiasm for adventure; reading about their endeavors and mishaps never felt like a chore. And, besides, who doesn't love a feathered headband?

-Josh Plattner

I myself hold The Boxcar Children series as the impetus behind my reading. The Alden siblings, orphaned and alone, move into an abandoned boxcar to avoid the elements. They go on to solve mysteries, discover their grandfather, and save the day countless times all while fighting to stay together as a family. It's got all the right elements of The Hatchet, Encyclopedia Brown, the Hardy Boys and the Babysitter Club. Plus, it was just the right difficulty for me to power through them in first through third grade while still building my vocabulary and there are enough books to last ages. I still pick up any books I don't own whenever I'm in a thrift store. It's a series that stays in your heart forever, and that's something magical that I think only the best books can do.

-Denzel Kingsbury

Now, we've all been lucky enough to have these resources available, helping is grow not just as readers but also as people. Books are a powerful tool for self-development, and I feel we all realize that. One of our own former employees here at Scarletta, Ashley Bostrom, has taken that realization and is working to help provide those same resources to the youth she works with in Ethiopia. Her program provides both the resources and the structure to help children who have never held a work of fiction before become well-read young adults. If you wish to help Ashley's program, she's made it super simple to do so. Just follow the link at the bottom, and it will lead you to a list of the books the program is in need of, and instructions on how to purchase copies and ship them to the school for free. I must admit, I'm particularly excited to send a copy of The Black Book of Colors and any other braille books I can to help make sure that even their blind student can be involved. 

We will never get those bygone year back, but we can make sure that we do our part to give those same opportunities and experiences to those who come after us. Thank you Ashley, and thank you to anyone else who contributes to a child's development through the power of reading.

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