RHONDA KEENUM: Reading to your children is practical and magical

One of the greatest treasures of childhood is discovery. As a mother of four, including triplets, I see my children’s delight in uncovering something new every day – colors, shapes, relationships, language, talents, the world around them. They learn about themselves and expand their self-awareness with every encounter and every new discovery.
The world, complicated and vast, is a great unknown that we help children explore: as parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, mentors, friends. One of the best ways I know to do that is by sharing with children the joy of reading.
There are so many practical reasons that reading should be a shared experience. It’s a quiet, special time, a valuable investment that tells the child “you’re important to me.” It also tells a child you find books and reading important, a significant message in a day when children are flooded with distractions such as television, video games, computers, cell phones and enough activities to keep a calendar filled every day of the month.
Reading lays a foundation that assures discovery, analysis and learning long into a child’s future. Studies have repeatedly shown that children who read early build vocabulary more readily, are more likely to succeed academically and develop a curiosity about learning. Books at local libraries are available for checkout at no charge, giving parents access to resources whose spark, literally, can change lives.
I urge parents and those who care for children to use these resources and to spend the only commodity that reading requires – time with a child. It’s an investment that will last long beyond the electronic devices and toys that have come to serve as entertainment for too many young people.
Whatever your choice of books, as this school year begins in earnest, I invite you to share reading with a child in your life. It’s some of the best time you’ll ever spend.

Rhonda Keenum is Mississippi State University’s first lady.

Rhonda Keenum