A Young Girl, A Book And A Teacher

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It's not a secret. Reading is food for the mind and for the soul. The earlier children come into contact with books the better!

Then why are we handing our toddlers cell phones to " keep them busy " at the grocery store? What ever happened to occupying a child's mind with a colorful book filled with new words and drawings?

Parents, teachers, psychologists, we are all asking ourselves why youth related problems such as drug and alcohol addiction, bullying and cyberbullying, suicide and self-harm are on the rise? We justly look for answers in theories and prevention programs. As countries we are forced to make new laws in order to address the constant increase of violent behavior among our children. Children we are no longer making time for, children that are being raised by television, the internet and videogames.

What ever happened to the bedtime story book? Where has that tender moment of bonding and mutual growth gone? Have we forsaken it to the virtual, to a digital world we all seem scarcely prepared to manage?

Children's emotions evolve as they grow and in order to develop they must be nurtured.
For example: a five year old goes to his father or mother and says: " Look at what I made at school today! " . The parent is busy on his/her tablet and distractedly dismisses the child : " I'll see it later, ok sweetheart? ". Even though we mean no harm, the message conveyed to the child is: " I'm invisible, I'm not worthy of attention ". We involuntarily contribute to stunting a child's emotional well - being . We impede self - awareness by undermining potentials children discover through acknowledgement and praise.

Understanding oneself is the stepping stone to achieving self - confidence and self -esteem. Character traits which enable youth to step away from destructive social practices to reach for activities that will enhance talents and ideas.

A child who grows up surrounded by books will flourish into a curious young adult. Emotions will correspond to feelings. For where does one learn how to feel, how to be empathetic? Love, pain, boredom, desperation, romanticism. Feelings are what literature is all about. Reading opens our hearts. It teaches how to relate, how to cope with life and live healthy relationships.

Technology can be a useful instrument for youth, for humanity, but only in the measure we are capable of using it for a good purpose. The net, like the real world is filled with good and bad. In an era where violence generates audience, where taking a life in a video game is the equivalent of taking a real life, it is crucial for children to understand the difference between wrong and right. This can only be done through cooperation. Families and education systems together can help youth realize that reading is not a chore, a duty, an obligation, but the beginning of an adventure that unfolds with every new " Once upon a time... "

As an English teacher here in Italy I had the privilege of encountering many good students who left me valuable memories. One of these goes back to the last day of school, well over ten years ago. A very shy thirteen year old girl made her way up to my desk, holding a book I had lent her to her chest. It was " Oliver Twist ".

" Teacher, finishing this novel was like saying goodbye to a dear friend. "
Letting Anna keep that worn out paperback was one of the best feelings of my life.