I never liked to read as a child. My mother did her best to find books that would interest me so I would be a better reader but I still didn’t like it. Eventually, this push did help me to find books that could take me away to another land and I did pour over the required reading in high school and college but all of that didn’t really catch me on fire to read. It was even a struggle to read my scriptures every day. Then I got married, had children and was busy with other things so I turned to magazines.
My husband on the other hand was a voracious reader. He read everything from science fiction to “How It Works” encyclopedias and teased me about my magazine reading. Somewhere along the middle of having children and living life, I started writing opinion pieces for a newspaper column in San Diego because of a public school issue very close to me and my family. Then it happened: I could not stop reading. There was not enough time in the day to read everything I wanted to read so I had to pace myself. Now, 25 years later, I have played catch up on most of the classics, teach a history/ literature class for teens and write book reviews. It’s crazy how such a weakness could be turned into a strength.
Reading to children helps them to become better readers as well and I read to my own as much as possible. All nine of mine love to read and with both parents’ examples in their life, they love books as much as we do.
Non-fiction was where it was at for me. Reading biographies, how-to-books and interesting political writings filled my life when I wasn’t changing diapers or cooking dinner. I learned that the pen was mightier than the sword and for me fiction was a waste of time. Boy, was I ever wrong.
Belonging to a writer’s group, I began to edit and review fictional stories. I have read more novels in the past 10 years than I have ever read before and they are dessert for me now. A well written story with a great moral or tender thought can teach better principles than most Sunday School classes. Why? Because, you are sucked up into the story so deeply that when you are hit with a true gospel principle, it stays with you for the rest of your life.
For example: I recently read a magnificent novel called The Dreamer by May Nicole Abby. It was a remarkable, adventure story of a woman who was at the end of her emotional rope. She did all she wanted through her educational pursuits, racking up degrees and studying around the world. She was a prominent professor at a high ranking university, yet something was missing and she didn’t know what. At wits end, she throws herself off the edge of a cliff in hopes to find what she is looking for and falls through a time portal which takes her back to the 1700’s. At the end of her story she says this: “Sometimes I cannot help marvel at the woman I have become who gave up the pursuit of fame for love and family. At first I tried to return to my work, but it was impossible with so much to do for Mallory (husband), his career and our home and especially once our first child came and needed me so. There was no time for it. So tenderly, I put it all away. I thought woman like me were weak. But it takes all my strength and courage to put my children and husband before myself. I know I won’t be read about in text
books and newspapers. I know I will live and die in general obscurity. Mallory will be read about perhaps, but not me. My children might become famed and acclaimed, but not me….. But without me, these, my loved ones, would be lost. Somehow I am the adhesive that binds us together as one and I have pondered in awe of my power. My words are their words. My kindness or cruelty, theirs. Their voices seem to be the echo of my own.”
Like long parables, these fictional stories can pierce the heart or strike upon exactly what the reader was looking for in life. Fictional stories have this power for good or for evil and that is an epiphany I have thought about over and over again. Books are food for the soul: all children should learn this. So if you are like I was so long ago, find a delicious desert of a book and read, read, read. You will not regret it.
Valerie Steimle has been writing as a family advocate for over 25 years. As a convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, she promotes Christian living in her writings and is the mother of nine children and grandmother to twelve. Mrs. Steimle authored six books and is a contributing writer to several online websites. To her, time is the most precious commodity we have and knows we should spend it wisely. To read more of Valerie's work, visit her at her website, The Blessings of Family Life.