Reading is for Babies

Preface: If you can slip into the freeway stream before 5 pm (Phoenix time), you might, on a good day, lead the rush hour pack, and you will, almost every day, catch some of NPR’s best stories on “All Things Considered.” After 5, expect heavy traffic and heavier crises. If only the people in those crises could be fortified by the pre-5  conversations like the rest of us. Recently, we had Horace Silver’s obituary. (Didn’t know his name, but his music? Absolutely.) Another day, another musical theme: an introduction to polyrhythms.

Father reading to baby The real topic: Yesterday, Audie Cornish interviewed Professor Susan Neuman about the American Pediatrics Association’s latest immunization promotion: “Immunize your children against illiteracy.” Research continues to confirm that reading to children matters, with new evidence that the younger you start, the better. Reading is even for babies. The benefits range from the earliest vocabulary development though later achievements.

(http://www.npr.org/2014/06/24/325229904/to-immunize-kids-against-illiteracy-break-out-a-book-in-infancy)

Some of my toddler memories include my dad reading me Dr. Seuss and, I kid you not, The Wall Street Journal, and my mom reading me a chapter of Johanna Spyri’s Heidi before every nap.

Reading with my own children was even more fun. My first toddler was barely forming two-word sentences when he announced from his car seat, “No, Pat! No, Pat!” He was pointing to a cactus, alluding to Dr. Seuss: “No, Pat, no! Don’t sit on that!” My younger son, by 3 or 4 spoke fluent King James, holding a book, pretending to read, making up stories and admonitions with archaic verb tenses and expressions, never confusing it with our colloquial English.

Reading is not only for babies. Jim Trelease (The Read-Aloud Handbook) suggests that teens wash dishes while parents read aloud. Talk about a Win-Win. The Phantom Tollbooth made a favorite dish-time hit.

Reading obviously benefits brain development, language acquisition, and academic achievements, but what I love most about reading/being read to, in classrooms and families, is the social development, between the literature and the readers, and the readers amongst themselves.

  • Empathy: reading another’s mind, walking in others’ shoes, experiencing other ages, places, cultures, and times.
  • Common vocabulary, allusions, characters, and private jokes, instantly conveying a concept or strengthening a relationship.
  • It’s hard to read and argue at the same time. (Certain people can pull it off—it helps to be attached to the literal, as in high-functioning autism—but imagine where such a person would be without literature and those ensuing discussions.)

What is your favorite reading benefit? Your favorite memory of communal reading?

_______________________

Text © Gwyn Nichols 2014. All rights reserved. WritersResort.com

Photo © Liza McCorkle. iStockPhoto.

The Worst Birthday Card Ever

I’m excited to be turning 50 soon, and my friends are celebrating early–even Aetna. They sent a card: “Happy Birthday!” it says, with fourteen lighted candles. It says “aetna” in a font twice the size of the greeting, which somewhat braced me for the message to come.

Aetna birthday card 50 front 09 2012

The interior begins, “Wishing you a very happy birthday” and continues “and offering an important screening reminder.” Naturally. No surprise there. They do insure me, at a high deductible followed by extremely high coverage in case I ever get severely maimed, or I fail to kill a cluster of my own rogue cells. Can’t you just hear the cancer scare coming?

It’s all one sentence, with a poetic line break, allowing a nanosecond to pretend that, together, we celebrate my life and health.

Aetna birthday card 50 interior 09 2012

The type gets tinier, on a card with more white space than type, like a legal notice, a disclaimer, a space to admit that the cure is worse than the disease, the prognosis is poor, and results may vary.

Breast cancer, I assume, since we women are daily hexed that we should worry about that until we take our inevitable turn.

Imagine my surprise when they chose to focus on colorectal cancer. I laughed. Of all body parts that could possibly be endangered by cancer, this is the guest of honor–and the only one–chosen for my half-life celebration?

It gets worse: four bullet points on why this matters, three more on the types of tests I should be requesting. I spare you the grisly details. You can probably read them on the image above.

Obviously, Aetna didn’t hire me to help them word this, but they should have.

First, I’d wipe Aetna off the cover. Clearly, we all remember who you are, having paid you often enough. Go for the sneak attack. Let us think it’s a real card from an actual friend, then sign it: “Aetna.” Or better yet, sign it in real ink by a live person representing Aetna. (Signature machines count.) I would give bonus points for offering this live person’s direct phone number.

Second, knock it off with the medical hexing. Promote health, not cancer.

Personalizing it would be nice. You managed to put my name on the envelope.

And Keep It Simple, Sweetie. Here’s a draft for you. “Gwyn, we wish you the best of health, and look forward to partnering with you each year to protect it.”

If you can’t leave well enough alone, you might say, to minimal offense, something like, “We are proud to cover many (most? all?) of your annual screenings at no cost to you. Please call me if you have any questions about your coverage or screening recommendations.”

The ad on the back is fine. You could even add a chart of recommended screenings by age. (Our medical records do include gender, so it would not be hard to personalize that as well.) Be sure you cover at least forty more years in the range; suggest that you believe we’re relatively young and want us to outlive life insurance as well.

Better yet, offer the top ten ways to promote health after age 50–eat more plants, exercise, meditate–things that do not involve lab techs and radiologists–the attitudes and activities that could make your bottom line and our bottom ends equally healthy.

Have you received a corporate birthday card you actually enjoyed?

_______________________

Text © Gwyn Nichols 2012. All rights reserved. WritersResort.com
Images: Scans of Aetna’s Age 50 birthday card. Used for critique. Please don’t plagiarize their work and ruin your own customer service reputation.