Raylee Lawson

AN EARLY LOVE OF READING — Raylee Lawson has discovered the joys that await within the Haywood County library system.

Albert Einstein said, “The only thing you absolutely have to know is the location of the library.” He’s saying that anything you’ll ever need to know, or want to know, can be found at the library.

My daughter Gina once told me that one of the best gifts I’ve given her is the joy of reading. I’m trying to pass that gift along to my 8-year-old granddaughter, Raylee Lawson, a second grader at Meadowbrook Elementary.

There’s no better place to develop a child’s love of reading than the library.

When I invited Raylee to go with me the first time, it wasn’t easy getting her to put down her electronic device. But after that first visit to the Haywood County Public Library in Waynesville, she was hooked.

Now, on her weekend visits to Nana and Poppy’s, she’s the one who initiates the idea of spending Saturday morning at the library.

She has acquainted herself with the downstairs children’s library and, in addition to browsing, is learning to search for books on the computer then find them in the shelves. She even helps me locate books in the adult library upstairs.

I get particular pleasure seeing Raylee select the books she wants to check out. She seems to gravitate toward the natural sciences. Recently, she took a flashlight and a couple of round objects to demonstrate for me a solar eclipse. Of course, she learned this from reading.

Growing up in the rural Western North Carolina mountains, I didn’t have easy access to a library. Most of my early independent reading was at my grandmother’s house. She subscribed to Reader’s Digest, Progressive Farmer, and the GRIT newspaper.

Not only did she subscribe to them, but she also saved them. Except for the ones that went to the Little Brown Shack Out Back, stacks and stacks of them gave me many joyful hours of reading.

When I was 10, a traveling salesman came through the holler and sold a neighbor family a set of encyclopedias . . . and that was the “Big Bang” in my life. Thanks to the kindness of those neighbors, I traveled all over the world and through much of the universe. God bless that traveling salesman.

Because I developed a love of reading at an early age, I can’t think of a time in my life when I’ve been lonely. Alone maybe, but never lonely.

Another benefit I receive from reading is relaxation. For me, reading is much like meditation. Unfortunately, I inherited the worry gene, probably from my mother who worried about everything. I doubt I’ve ever turned my car’s ignition without worrying about whether or not it would start. But when I’m reading, I’m lost in the story. No worries.

Miss Hamilton, one of my grade-school teachers, told us repeatedly, “Children, learn to read and you can learn anything.”

And it’s true that most of a child’s learning is done from reading the writing on a blackboard, in books, magazines, and workbooks from the teacher, and now on computer. If a child can’t read, how is it possible to learn history, science, social studies, or math?

Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop, a professor of children’s literature, coined the term “mirrors, windows and glass sliding doors.”

She says children need books that are mirrors (allowing them to see themselves), windows (that they can look through to see other worlds), and glass sliding doors (that allow them to enter other worlds).

I don’t know what the future holds for Raylee, academically or otherwise. But I’m not concerned . . . because my granddaughter knows the location of the library. And the joy of reading.

Dave Hogan is a retired disc jockey. He lives in Lake Junaluska.

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