What You Can’t Give Them, This Can

It would be wonderful if we could get our kids everything they needed. If we could teach them all they needed to know. If we could provide every bit of support, every lesson necessary.

But of course we can’t.

Because we are limited. There are things we don’t know. Flaws we have. Topics we don’t seem to be able to reach them on. But we don’t need to despair, because there is something we can do to fill those holes. We can teach them and encourage them to read. We can model what the life of a reader is and the values it offers. What the poem “Because of Libraries…” by Naomi Shihab Nye says of the young reader can be true for your kids:

What this town has not given her

the book will provide; a sheep,

a wilderness of new solutions.

The book has already lived through its troubles.

The book has a calm cover, a straight spine.

We don’t teach our kids to read and to love books because it will help them get into college. We don’t do it because we want them to seem smart. We teach them to love learning because it stiffens their spine, because it lets them know they are not alone. It transports them to different worlds, it gives them knowledge—and knowledge, as you know, is power.

We must give our kids everything we can…but knowing that we can’t give them everything, we have to give them the tools to get the rest themselves. Books are those tools, or in other cases, are the maps to the tools or the instruction manual on those tools. In the poem, the girl uses the book as a shield, as a source of nourishment, a stool, and so many other things she needs. Give that gift to your children today.

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