May 1, 2024

Get Caught Reading

By Mary Schricker Gemberling

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies;
the man who never reads lives only one.”
                                       … George R. R. Martin

“Get Caught Reading” is a nationwide public service campaign launched by the Association of Publishers to remind people of all ages how much fun it is to read. Although the celebration lasts all year, the month of May is officially ‘Get Caught Reading’ month. I can’t remember a time when I did not enjoy reading. During my career as a language arts teacher most of my reading was professional, but since I retired twenty-four years ago (oh, my how can that be!) my reading is purely for pleasure.

In today’s world of technology, social media and hectic lifestyles, the benefits and enjoyment of reading sometimes get lost. Books can literally open up an opportunity to transport ourselves into another world, away from the day-to-day reality and stresses of life. Reading is a crucial element in every child’s education; through reading children lean about new places, people and events. They gain exposure to new ideas and beliefs, and understand how to be more tolerant and appreciate the perspective of others.

One of the activities I most enjoy when we are at our Florida condo is belonging to the book club. The books are selected through an equitable process of allowing members to suggest books they think will be interesting to read. The final decision is made by a committee of members whose goal is to choose books that reflect a variety of topics and ideas that would be good fodder for discussion. I not only enjoy being challenged to read books I would not otherwise choose but have loved getting to know these friendly, interesting ladies from all over the country.

Even when I am back home in the Midwest I spend much of my time reading many different kinds of books from mindless romance novels, more serious historical fiction, and occasionally nonfiction. I probably could not tell you the name of many of the books I have read except for those very few that make a lasting impression on me for one reason or another. I might identify with a setting of a book enticing me to visit that location. Or perhaps something in the book conjures up a particular time in my life that I am able to revisit through the pages I am reading.

Occasionally I meet someone in a book with whom I identity. Kate Bowman, in Tending Roses by Lisa Wingate is just such a person. Kate, who moves temporarily to her grandmother’s farm in Missouri, has been given the job of convincing Grandma Rose to move off her beloved land and into a nursing home. Her struggles with family, friendships, and faith make Kate see her own life and her grandmother in a completely new way. Being in a particularly reflective stage of my own life I found myself reminiscing throughout the book and relating many of the events of the book to my own life experiences. Her overwhelming love for her baby boy consumes her, making her question the relevance of her career. As family and new friends surround her and give her a sense of peace she had never felt before, she wonders how she can leave this environment and return to her prior existence in a city surrounded by strangers. While reading her grandma’s journal and getting to really know her, flaws and all, she understands the immense value of friends, family and a faith she had abandoned. Kate took me back on my own personal journey through the years of parenthood and reminded me of all those people who played critical roles during that time. She made me think of the career choices I made resulting in my ability to spend valuable times with my own aging parents before they died.

In the words of Paul Sweeney, “You know you’ve read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little as if you have lost a friend.” The downside of reading a really good book, can be that it ends! I often will research other books by the same author, but find they do not always meet my expectations. The extent to which we enjoy a book often lies in what our present environment, mood, and needs are. We as readers bring to the act of reading our own history, biases, attitudes, loves and dislikes. The writer might have in mind an intended message, but how we assimilate it varies with each one of us.

In addition to being good for our minds, research shows that regular reading can lower blood pressure, reduce stress, and improve sleep quality. A link between reading books and longevity has also been discovered: reading keeps your brain active and promotes mental and emotional health. Sounds like the perfect activity for a cloudy, slightly cool afternoon; think I will go crawl up in my favorite chair and ‘get caught reading’ for the rest of the day!

“I love the way that each book—any book—is its own journey.
You open it and off you go”
                               … Sharon Creech

Mary, a former educator and Seniors Real Estate Specialist. Mary is the author of four books: The West End Kid, Labor of Love, Hotel Blackhawk; A Century of Elegance, and Ebenezer United Methodist Church; 150 years of Resiliency.

Filed Under: Health & Wellness, News, Personal Growth

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