“You may not see it now,” said the Princess of Pure Reason, looking knowingly at Milo’s puzzled face, “but whatever we learn has a purpose and whatever we do affects everything and everyone else, if even in the tiniest way. Why, when a housefly flaps his wings, a breeze goes round the world; when a speck of dust falls to the ground, the entire planet weighs a little more; and when you stamp your foot, the earth moves slightly off its course. Whenever you laugh, gladness spreads like the ripples in the pond; and whenever you’re sad, no one anywhere can be really happy. And it’s much the same thing with knowledge, for whenever you learn something new, the whole world becomes that much richer.”
A couple days ago Jeremy asked if I would participate in Read Across America. This is the third year he’s asked people to call in via Skype and read something to his class. You probably know some of the others who are reading to his class today. Isn’t this a great idea?! I love it.
Today is also Dr. Seuss‘s birthday.
I had a hard time deciding what to read because most of my children’s books are in my mom’s attic in Rubbermaid containers. Also, at 10 years old I was reading at higher grade levels. This is somewhat surprising given my difficulties with reading. I read to myself like I would read aloud, so I’m a slow reader. I also switch words around (it’s the same with numbers). As a kid I also had severe anxiety and hated reading aloud in class because of those issues. I started thinking about this when I said I would read to Jeremy’s class. What if I screw it up? What if I switch the words around? I’m almost 28 years old and I got nervous thinking about reading in front of some kids! But I love reading. I always have. My frustrations and inability to read quickly never kept me from reading everything I could get my hands on.
I wanted to read some Neil Gaiman to Jeremy’s class, but the lovely Grace beat me to it. I chose not to read a Dr. Suess story because I didn’t really like Dr. Suess as a ten year old. Instead, I’m reading the first two chapters from one of my top ten favorite books of all time. It is a book that my mom read to me as a kid and one I read every few years because it is so remarkable. It was enjoyable to read as a kid, but I thought it was brilliant by high school. I still have my mom’s copy from when she was a kid. Maybe after hearing the first section, they’ll want to finish the story themselves or to ask a family member to read it to them.
It’s about a ten year old boy, Milo, who is bored with everything. After a tollbooth lands in his bedroom, he travels to a far off world filled with topsy turvy places like Digitopolis, Dictionopolis and the Doldrums. He meets some wonderful characters like Tock the watchdog who hates killing time, the Humbug who is a bug with nothing very positive to say, and the Spelling B-e-e who is, yes, a bee and an expert speller. They encounter terrible villains like the Senses Taker, the Trivium, and the Lethargians. They must rescue Rhyme and Reason in the Castle in the Air because there is a disagreement about whether numbers or letters are more important than one another. Along the way, a conductor conducts a sunrise, they don’t get wet in the Sea of Knowledge, a midget is actually a giant depending on how you look at it, people eat their words (and synonym buns), and the Whether Man doesn’t care what the weather is as long as he knows whether there will be weather. In the end, Milo comes to appreciate learning, curiosity, and perspective, and he is never bored again. Yeah, so it’s completely fantastical, but it is so clever and has a great message.
Books like this made me love reading. And love learning. It’s amazing how the lessons we learn as children can stick with us into adulthood.
“And remember, also,” added the Princess of Sweet Rhyme, “that many places you would like to see are just off the map and many things you want to know are just out of sight or a little beyond your reach. But someday you’ll reach them all, for what you learn today, for no reason at all, will help you discover all the wonderful secrets of tomorrow.”