The Book Nook: Please take the time to read to children

“Journeys — Young Readers’ Letters to Authors Who Changed Their Lives” by the Library of Congress, edited by Catherine Gourley (Candlewick Press, 226 pages, $18.99)

Another school year is drawing nigh. Do you remember the sense of excitement we felt as we prepared to return to school? During the third and fourth grades, I had teachers who set aside an hour each afternoon for story time. They read books aloud to us. That experience was transforming. I have been a dedicated reader ever since.

A book for young readers reminds me of the literary worlds that opened up for me when our fourth-grade teacher, Mrs. Anderson, read to us from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House on the Prairie” series. “Journeys - Young Readers’ Letters to Authors Who Changed Their Lives” is a collection of 52 letters written by students in fourth through 12th grades.

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These letters evoke the sense of discovery and inspiration that young readers feel about writers who have made a special connection with them through their work. Even though many of these letters were inspired by authors who died long ago, they can still reveal a powerful truth — that books can help us to understand our lives.

In a letter meant for the poet Emily Dickinson, a girl expressed how she felt after reading the poem “I’m Nobody! Who Are You?” She wrote: “This poem truly spoke to me, because sometimes, I do feel like nobody. Emily, you made me feel like being a nobody is so much more fun than being a somebody, and you made me agree with you. Also, you made me feel like I’m not alone.”

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A girl living on a farm wrote Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings about her book “The Yearling.” She reflected that “all my lambs have been working unintentionally to help me become who I am today, and who I will be. They taught me how to deal with challenges in my life, how to overcome them. When it seems like I’m all alone, I’m really not.”

A boy who read Carl Hiaasen’s humorous novel “Hoot” came away with a serious message: “Mr. Hiaasen, you have opened my mind about what can happen to wildlife when there is development. People are not thinking about what they are doing to the environment when they build new buildings or destroy shorelines. “Hoot’ inspired me to act, and I now know that it doesn’t matter if you are big or small. If you stand up for what you believe in, you can make something happen.”

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There is a letter written to Dr. Seuss for “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.” A child was discarding some books when her mother insisted that this book should be kept. The daughter now reflects that “whenever I miss my mom, I can read it and remember the way her voice sounded and how safe and warm we felt with each other and the way she’d fall asleep on my bed sometimes if we read late enough. Even if I can’t be with her, I can turn to what we both held on to. I’ll always have that.”

Books can change lives.

Vick Mickunas of Yellow Springs interviews authors every Saturday at 7 a.m. and on Sundays at 10:30 a.m. on WYSO-FM (91.3). For more information, visit Contact him at vick@vickmickunas.

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