Tuesday, November 17, 2015

That First Spark

I'm coming off having the flu.  Honestly, I'm not so sure it was really the flu, though.

I'm thinking a deity of some kind decided to knock me around for shits n' giggles.  Some of those gods are mean pricks with savage senses of humor.  And being the sort of person I am, these gods have all kinds of reasons to be pissed at me, so really it was just a matter of time.

For a while I was even pondering some sort of deal.  At my lowest, with brain-fogging cramps in my guts while they gurgled like worms in a blender, I considered my options.

Do I really want to stop teaching random toddlers to shout "Hail Satan" in Walmart?  Because really, that's one of life's little enjoyments, like chocolate, or seeing pictures of your co-workers that you were never supposed to see.

But once the pain and misery started to taper off, I was once again able to think about more pleasant things, and I wanted to post something on here relevant to the season.

When I was in grade school, Jefferson Elementary in Sterling, Illinois, I found a book in the library that changed everything.  Sure, I had read The Hardy Boys, and a few others.  But none of them really captured my imagination.  Nothing jumped out at me until one day I found a book that changed it all.

Sir MacHinery by Tom McGowen.

This book sparked that first love of reading in me.  It was incredible.  My classmates loved this book, too, and we would fight and argue over who was going to read it next.  

The story is a simple, yet classic, tale of good vs. evil.  It had ghosts, grumpy Scottish WWII vets, a witch, and a robot.  It was the best thing a kid in Fourth Grade could read.  

The author, Tom E. McGowen, is an Illinois native and is still with us to this day.  I'm sure he doesn't do public appearances and copies of this book are rather expensive on Amazon, which tells me it wasn't re-printed in paperback form much.  

But this simple book is what sparked my love of reading and sparked my imagination.  It's what put me on a path that would lead to me all sorts of wonderous things.  

This is something I hope to do for others.  Not with my writing, mind you.  I'd never recommend my writing to anybody without a certain amount of emotional damage or manure in their souls.  I mean I always hope that some book I give to a kid is the one that sparks it in them.  That love of reading--that Ah-Ha Moment when a kid realizes what is inside of a book can be better than anything ever put on a television or movie screen.  

I cannot think of anything better to do for a child.  To teach a child that a whole world exists and is waiting for them to dive in is the greatest thing we can do.  This is how we make the world a better place.  This is how we ensure our species moves forward.  

This holiday season, regardless of why you are giving a gift, I hope you think critically of what you are giving and I hope you give a book.  It's not about the age of the person because everybody reads.  And it's not about what you want that person to learn or what path you want them to walk.  Instead, think of what you'll spark inside of them.  See what you can open up inside their minds so they move beyond what they think of as their world.  

I wish everybody had a Sir MacHinery in their lives.  Most of my friends do.  This sort of thing is important.  

And if the kid isn't a reading type, then read to them.  Parents should be doing this every night anyways.  Kids who read make better students and develop better life skills.  We all know this.  

With the nights getting longer and colder, this is the perfect thing to get in the habit of every night.  Read to your kids, let them see you reading, they will copy your behavior.  And once they start reading for themselves, let them find that one spark, because that's really the best thing you can do for them.  

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