They're just words on a page, but books can take you places and open up worlds of wonder, enlightenment, and imagination for your children. This June, Gus Silber reflects on the role his own father played in shaping his future through books and stories and the power of parents to pass on this important tradition.
I grew up in a house without walls, and a roof that was open to the clouds and the stars. I grew up in a house made of books. Learning to read was like being handed a wand that, with a flick, could part the curtains between the real world and the world of dreams.
I didn't just read, I fell into books, so deeply that nothing could pull me out, not the increasingly urgent yells of my mother calling me to the dinner table, not the pulse of the sun inviting me to play outside. "I'll be there right now!" I would say to both, and then I would turn the page – just one more page!
I have no memory of being read to by my father, but I have memories of bumping into books, tripping over books and having books rain on my head. They were everywhere. To read was as natural as to breathe.
My father was a teacher and a school librarian. He brought his work home. He painted white bands on the lower spines of the books in our house, classifying them according to the Dewey Decimal System. I always forgot to put them back in the right place.
He was a scholar too. Once, at university, he scored a hundred and ten per cent for a Latin exam. He answered questions that hadn't even been asked. I didn't get that from him, alas, but I did get something even more valuable: the magic and the mystery and the wonder of words on a page.
Every single thing you read stays with you, changes you and prepares you for life. To read to your children, to read with your children, to encourage them to read on their own, is to give them a gift that will unwrap the world in all its wonder.
Parents, let there be books, let them be about everything, let them be plucked from the shelves and absorbed into the bloodstream of knowledge and imagination. Children, let books be your guides, your friends, your sailing ships to other lands, your rocket ships to the heavens. And, when your mother calls you to dinner, and the sun calls you to play, please, go. Your book will wait for you, after you have read just one more page.
Gus Silber is an award-winning journalist, bestselling author, scriptwriter and father of Sarah-Jane, Max and Rachel.