Some parents want their kids to know how to read.
We want more than that.
We want our kids to be obsessed. We want them to hunger for books. We want them to read like they’re on a mission.
Someone had told me that my father had read Gibbon with delight; that he knew whole pages of it by heart, and that it had greatly affected his style of speech and writing. So without more ado I set out upon the eight volumes of Dean Milman’s edition of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. I was immediately dominated both by the story and the style. All through the long glistening middle hours of the Indian day, from when we quitted stables till the evening shadows proclaimed the hour of Polo, I devoured Gibbon. I rode triumphantly through it from end to end and enjoyed it all. I scribbled all my opinions on the margins of the pages, and very soon found myself a vehement partisan of the author against the disparagements of his pompous-pious editor. I was not even estranged by his naughty footnotes.
Maybe you remember how that flipped in you. Was it a teacher who brought you over to a special section of the library and showed you a whole cache of books that seemed perfectly fitted to your interests? Was it your father, as it was for Margaret Thatcher, who picked out special titles and read them with you? Was it an escape from the unpleasantness of the world? Was it a desire to make something of yourself—and realizing just how much priceless knowledge was contained in those dusty volumes on the shelf?
The point is: It’s not just about reading the occasional book. It’s about making it a habit. It’s about devouring. It’s about getting momentum, going from one book to the next, one author to the next. It’s realizing that these books can help you do something. Think about how essential it was for Churchill to realize that certain authors had played a role in his father’s life and that by reading, he could become closer to him, more like the man he admired.
That’s what motivated him to devour those books, to hunger for them, to read like he was on a mission.
What will it be for your kids? What is it for you?