March 2023: It’s National Reading Month – What’s on Your Stack?

Yes, March is now annually designated as National Reading Month, in honor of Dr. Suess’ birthday (You do remember all those fun Dr. Suess books, don’t you?!). Local libraries and bookstores traditionally promote the month of reading, and that is good. And the purpose is especially to encourage reading in children, which continues to decline. And I hope you will certainly use this month to encourage the children in your life to read and to read widely.

But I also want to use this opportunity to encourage you as an adult to read and to read widely. You also know how I feel about reading (“read more, read better”) and you typically know what I’m reading from reading this blog. I have a stack of diverse books alongside my chair in the den, from the serious Christian and Reformed books to American and world history, from lighter fare that includes fiction and non-fiction (such as my annual baseball read!) to magazines and journals, religious (such as Tabletalk) and secular (Michigan History is one of my favorites).

Reading is hard work – no question about that. That includes setting time aside to read. I am not unaware of the challenges to that. In fact, I struggle with that daily. And yet I can and do commit to reading something for some part of the day. That includes, of course, reading the most important book in the world – God’s Word, the Bible.

But in this post I want to stress the importance of reading for sheer fun and enjoyment. Yes, I too admit that sometimes one of my favorite activities becomes a chore and I don’t want to give myself to it. But then I simply have to ‘change gears’ (or jump cars) a bit so as to get my passion for reading back. Which is why I keep a variety of books at my elbow, so that if my mood is to read for simple pleasure, I have a book ready to give me just that. I am always on the lookout for these types of books, and sometimes these kind of fall into your lap, providentially.

That happened again in the last few weeks. I was browsing some local thrift stores for some things for the seminary library, the bookstore, and for my own reading pleasure when I came on a brand new author (to me) and book: Jim Heynen’s The One-Room Schoolhouse: Stories about the Boys (Alread A. Knopf, 1993). What a delight this book has been to my winter reading! Simple, fun (and funny), real-life stories of boys growing up in Midwest farm country. Lots of wholesome outdoor animal and boyhood adventures! In short chapters with attention-grabbing headings (“Dancing with Chickens,” “Betcha Don’t Dare,” “Eye to Eye” (with pigs!), and “Church Bears”), and well written prose, Heynen has captured both my imagination and my love for reading for sheer enjoyment.

So, go out and find a good book (I highly recommend this one!) and set down in your easy chair, inside or outside, and read for pure pleasure. I promise it will do your soul good. And it will stimulate you to read more, and better.

Want a taste of the pleasure? Try this from “Dancing with Chickens.”

What most people didn’t know is that chickens could dance. The boys thought this might have something to do with how stupid they were, though they actually seemed to have a knack for it. The boys didn’t bring music to dance with chickens, just a little rhythm, a little clapping of hands and shuffling of feet. Not so much that it would scare the chickens into piling in a corner and killing themselves, but hard and loud enough so the chickens’ heads would start keeping time. First in little jerky moves while the boys patted their heads, as if the chickens were sniffing the air in the direction of the boys’ soft clapping. Then the boys moved their shoulders as they clapped, and the chickens’ heads started turning from side to side – at the same time they kept doing their little pecks of the air. Just when everybody was together on this, a whole coop of chickens following the beat, the boys added some foot shuffling, careful not to move so fast that it scared the stupid chickens, never so loud that it sent them squawking into chicken bedlam. After a few seconds of this, one chicken would lift its foot from the straw and then, as if it was too dumb to know what to do with it, put it down again, probably because its head was turning and it wasn’t sure which direction it would go in if it did try and take a step.

In a while it was a flock of soft jerky dancing, the boys leading the way, keeping it up until they got dizzy – or until they heard someone coming. They didn’t want anyone to see them doing this. Dancing with chickens was the only dancing the boys ever did. How would they know for sure that someone watching them wouldn’t think the stupid chickens had started all this and they were just following?

Published in: on March 11, 2023 at 10:08 PM  Leave a Comment