There is all sorts of evidence that reading aloud to kids from the time they’re babies and encouraging them to read makes a huge difference in school — and that kids who read well also spell well and write well, and even think well.
When I think of my own home growing up, I think of all the books we had — whatever else we lacked, we were surely rich in these. Many of them were protected behind glass in bankers’ bookcases, or lawyers bookcases, or whatever those bookcases are called. This gave the books a special air of importance to me as a kid.
Like many family libraries, ours was a mixed bag. There were books on history, philosophy, literature, biographies, sociology, and even sex. Yes, sex. My father was one of the editors of a three-volume set of books called The Encyclopedia of Sexual Behavior, which I always felt embarrassed about and obligated to tell my friends, “Well, it’s about sex, but it’s not dirty.”
I also felt obliged to tell everyone that my father was a writer, which I felt vaguely proud of. I don’t think I really connected what he did all day sitting at his desk in our dining room in our apartment in Washington Heights with the books we had, but still, it seemed to me something exotic — and certainly different from what the dads of my friends did in distant places like offices.
We each had our own library. Mine was housed in a bookcase that I painted a cherry red and it was a source of pride to me — how I wish I still had it! Seeing all my books lined up neatly made me feel safe and secure, as if I had all the information I needed to make my way in the world with ease right at my fingertips. Though this proved to be a foolish idea, I clung to it far longer than I should have.
My beloved sister Judy once said, “That’s the trouble with you, Karin. You think you can find the answer for everything in a book.” She was right. I did. And strangely enough, I still do. Write on.