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James R. Stout

Reading

            I have often mentioned my love for reading. It’s been a lifelong love affair. I remember reading “Little Golden” books from about the age of 4 or 5. Big words sometimes got in the way and my mother repeated something to me from an early age that she did until the last year of her life. I would ask what a word meant and I would spell it to her. She would say, “Look it up.” Now, she knew what the words meant, but she also knew that if she simply told me that I would likely not remember the meaning. So, she taught me to look things up in a dictionary. She knew that I would remember the meanings better if I spent time to look them up. Before I learned phonetics, she would sound out the word for me. I remember one word in particular that I got wrong and with a chuckle she corrected me. The word was “Potomac”. I looked at that word and thought it would be pronounced POTO-MAC!

            By the time I was 10 years old, I was reading “The Hardy Boys”, Troy Nesbitt novels, and just about any biography that I could find. I was enamored with biographies. I read all about Thomas Edison, Jim Thorpe, Lou Gehrig, and Theodore Roosevelt. By the age of 12, I was reading the so-called “classics” which included, “Ivanhoe”, “Robinson Crusoe”, “The Count of Monte Cristo”, and “Huckleberry Finn”. I also enjoyed novels such as “The Time Machine”, “Voyage To The Bottom of The Sea”, and “Mysterious Island”.

            When I was 16 years old, I discovered a book called, “Alas, Babylon” by Pat Frank. It quickly became my favorite book and to this day is my all-time favorite book. By the time I was in my mid-20’s I was reading current novels such as the Dirk Pitt adventures by Clive Cussler. Over the years since then I have read thousands of books. Some are pure fiction and simply enjoyable while others are biographies, science-fiction, and westerns. My favorite two authors of all-time are Dean Koontz and Louis L’amour.

            So, why tell you all of this? Well, for a few reasons. First, if you don’t read for the sheer fun of it, then you’re missing out on something wonderful. Reading is fun. Second, reading is educational. I believe that the more that you read and the diversity of what you read will raise you IQ by many points. No joke. It’s the best classroom ever. Third, reading can take you anywhere in the universe. I remember the love for reading that my grandmother and I shared. By the time she was in her 70’s she was experiencing physical problems that prohibited her from going places. She couldn’t travel, drive, and in the last few years of her life, she couldn’t walk. But every time that I went to visit her, I would bring her a book. She loved books about the presidents. We would sit for an hour and talk about the presidents. Even in her 80’s she could tell you the names of all the presidents and vice-presidents in order of service as well as tidbits of information about their lives. Who their wives were, where they went to school, their age when elected, and how close the elections were and even who their opponents were. She might have been unable to physically go places, but she could go all over the United States by reading. She was born in 1902 to humble life in the country. But she was smart as a whip and she graduated from high school in a time when many people didn’t. She worked hard as a farmer’s wife through the roaring 20’s, the great depression, WW2, 7-year drought in the 50’s, and the onset of old age in the 60’s. But she always read. I remember the many books that she had, and I have some of those very books on one of my bookshelves yet. “Jo’s Boys”, “Pilgrims Progress”, and a 1918 textbook on the History of Texas. One of the highlights for both of us when I would visit them at the farm was the day of the week when “Life Magazine” would be delivered by mail. We had a great time reading those magazines.

            I guess my main theme here is that reading is something that you should start your children doing as early as possible. I read to my children before they could put two sentences together. I am constantly giving my grandchildren books to read and to call their own. So far, they love reading as much as I did at their age. It’s true that you have to be more selective these days in what you let your children read, but there’s plenty of great books that you can share with them. Reading will help educate them, make them better students in school, and spark their imaginations and perhaps even inspire them to follow an interest that becomes a calling in life.

            One final thing. I’ve read the Bible from cover to cover and have studied portions many times. I earned a degree in Christianity from Houston Baptist University which naturally required that I read and study the origins of the books of the Bible. I’m not a biblical scholar, but I have loved reading the Bible. There is much to learn in those 66 books. My other degree is in History. The Bible itself is a history book. While I love the depth and meanings found in the Gospel of John, I also love the books of Luke and Acts for their history and the telling of it. Reading will open the world to you. If you are reading this, then I’d like for you to leave a simple comment stating your favorite all-time book. This is just for fun.

This picture was taken of me when I was about 5 or 6 years old. I had just received a new to me "Little Golden" book (The Fire Engine Book) and had fallen asleep while reading it that night. I guess my mom and dad couldn't resist the photo op!

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