Is The Word Getting Out?

Greetings,  and a Merry Christmas,  a Happy Hanukkah,  a Happy Holiday wish courtesy of the Judeo-Christian coalition.   I believe it was Rodney Dangerfield who said,  “I decided not to be an atheist. They don’t get any holidays.”

My title reflects a continuation, maybe a sidebar,  of the topic I wrote about in my most recent column in “The Sandspur” (issue of December 16):  the importance of imparting literacy to our children, who are exposed now to hundreds of thousands of words and images daily and yet who may not be getting the guidance needed to become truly literate (well-read and able to communicate clearly in speaking and writing).

After I wrote that,  we headed to “BooksAMillion” to find some books to send to our granddaughter for Christmas.  She will be five in early January.  We think it very important that, in addition to watching her kids’ shows on TV and on DVDs, she also learn to appreciate the lasting values found in print.  So we ended up buying four books that we think she will enjoy:  (1)  The Classic Illustrated version of “Alice in Wonderland,” (2) the Classic Illustrated version of Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book,”  (3)  A “Christmas Carol Singalong” with four carols and ample and colorful illustrations,  (4) and “Hello Kitty! Hello USA!” a very fetching story of Hello Kitty’s travels through the 50 states and the District of Columbia.  “Hello Kitty” was the primary theme her mother and father chose for her well before she was born.

We will be looking to hearing from her mother and father as to which of these books she particularly enjoyed and why.

What books have you found that your children or grandchildren especially enjoyed? Or maybe you have a story to share about a child’s special involvement with a book or a story.  Feel free to use some of this space.  I believe it is, in effect, infinite.

In my next posting I want to write a bit about the dictionaries I try to keep handy or simply cherish having.



19 Responses to “Is The Word Getting Out?”

  1. Tammy Stephens Says:

    After our conversation on Friday, I realized the kids love rhyming books and I enjoy reading those to them more than the others. The younger ones prefer a character theme most of the time, with the oldest liking the comic style. (Can’t think of the word for those).
    Merry Christmas my friend!!

  2. CICvet Says:

    Mort Sahl said, “It’s worse being agnostic. They don’t know whether they get holidays off or not.” Cheers.

  3. CICvet Says:

    Perhaps you’re referring to the Anime books?

  4. Tammy Stephens Says:

    Yes I do, but is there another name as well. I was asking at the school library, and I thought they mentioned another word?

  5. Ashley Says:


    You’re thinking of manga. Anime generally refers to cartoons, while manga refers to the comics.

    I think books are some of the most wonderful presents we can give to children. I still have the Charlotte’s Web book my parents gave me in first grade.

    However, parents need to be sure that books are age-appropriate. I know of a seven-year-old who will most likely find the Twilight Saga under her tree, a series way too intense for a child her age.

  6. Tammy Stephens Says:

    Yes, thanks!!

    I agree! I have found that because it’s geared toward one age group, doesn’t mean it’s on their level. The child may be above or below that reading level.
    Also of a child’s interest, it gets the older ones to continue reading.

  7. Gregory Phillips Says:

    Reading to my daughter is one of my greatest pleasures as a parent. my mother reading Robin Hood to my brother and me is one of my earliest memories.

    My daughter is 3 and I have tried to use her interest in TV to channel her toward books based on her favorite shows, Dora the Explorer in particular.

    But we enjoy some early classics too: Goodnight Moon, Guess How Much I Love You and The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

  8. Frank B Maness,Jr. Says:

    I was watching over my granddaughter(6) one night and when it can bed time for her, she ran and got a book my daughter had been reading to her and said,” Pa Pa read to me before I go to sleep!!” I told her,” I will but I can’t read very well, I may need some help.” I did as I knew I would. I don’t know if my reading had anything to do with it but the next time she just went straight to bed. Please continue to help your children to learn, I missed out at a early age and never caught up.

    Keep up the learning process of your children it pays off in the lone run and it’d great you folks do, as Gregory stated, channeling his daughter in a different direction! He has a way with words, as you all do!!!

  9. Tammy Stephens Says:

    Forgive me Raymond this is to good not to share! Here’s Raymond’s story…

    Give your children gift of literacy
    Raymond J. Rundus

    ” ‘Tis education forms the common mind: Just as the twig is bent, the tree’s inclined. – Alexander Pope, Moral Essays. Epistle I

    “Little kids can do big things. For a start, we can stop using plastic bags. – Jerry Wang, third grade, Ashley Elementary School, Fayetteville

    A father can do it. A mother can do it. A grandfather or a grandmother can do it. Even an older sister, an older brother, a friend or a guardian can do it.

    Somebody must. If our society is to protect itself from the crimes and misdemeanors of others, and if our nation is to compete with other nations, literacy must remain a primary responsibility. As you no doubt are aware, our jails and mental institutions are made up to a large degree by the illiterate or those who for whatever reason have failed to communicate coherently their wants and needs.

    If we succeed in giving our children the gift of literacy, we will awaken their imaginations and give them the greatest single gift that can be bestowed on a curious, growing – but still largely unformed and innocent – person.

    Concerns about the problems of illiteracy were important enough to both Barbara Bush, first lady of President George H.W. Bush, and Laura Bush, first lady of President George W. Bush, that they made family literacy a prominent part of their personal agendas. It seems today equally important to Michelle Obama, perhaps enhanced because she and the president have two school-age daughters.

    Country music superstar Dolly Parton is responsible for the perpetual funding of a program, “Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library,” which mails each month to enrolled children, from birth until entrance into kindergarten, a free book appropriate to the child’s age.

    Made captive or captivated today by an overwhelmingly stimulating world of communication, the average American is exposed each day to hundreds of thousands of words and usually a proportionate amount of vivid, visual images. One might suppose that a child would not much care for having a book to read or having a book read to him or her.

    But I have noticed some interesting things about our-soon-to-be-5-year-old granddaughter. In our too-infrequent encounters, her mother, a clinical pediatrician, encourages me to read some stories each evening to Ava before she goes to bed.

    Ava also watches videos and TV programs quite frequently and is usually so absorbed in the stories and pictures that she cannot or will not be distracted.

    So it would seem that the print materials are, at best, second-class citizens here.

    Since Ava is usually hard to calm down enough to pay close attention, I now realize that her restlessness is not brought about because she does not like to be read to or to read: she is resisting going to bed as long as she can get away with it.

    And, oddly enough, she is physically and verbally more active as she sits in my lap and we turn the pages and I read in as distinctive a voice as I can. I come away realizing that more of her senses are engaged now than were active when she was watching her DVD. And, no doubt, her imagination was at work as she connected the words to her own mental and emotional imaginings.

    Sadly, far too many of our children still lack the opportunity to open their imaginations and to create a lively, sensory-rich world of their own, one that will be expanded and redirected continually throughout their growing years.

    And much of that lack or loss, unfortunately, is brought about by their being raised in homes and families in which illiteracy is the cultural norm.

    Fifty years ago, the United Nations formulated and brought forward a “Declaration of the Rights of the Child.” Twenty years later, in 1979, UNESCO proclaimed on New Year’s Day that that year would be “The International Year of the Child.” I haven’t heard or read much at all this year about either of those milestones being reviewed and re-evaluated. I don’t sense that children who were born and are being raised in North Carolina are in safer homes, and that their bodies are better nourished and their minds and souls better nurtured 50 years ago or even 30 years ago. I could be too pessimistic here.

    Let me end with a suggestion about some ways in which storytelling has been and can continue to be a great educator of ourselves and our children. I am partly inspired here by Dr. Susan Cannata’s Commencement Address at UNCP on Dec. 12.

    One of the greatest collection of stories ever created comes from as long ago as the sixth century “Before Christ” or preceding the “Christian Era.” These are the “Fables” of Aesop, who is usually described as a slave as well as a storyteller.

    Several years ago I gave Ava a modern edition of Aesop in English translation. I still find myself, now 70 years older than Ava, quite often reminiscing about a story of Aesop’s. I am particularly fond of “The Ant and the Grasshopper” (Jean de la Fontaine’s French retelling is excellent also), “The Dog in the Manger,” “The Fox and the Grapes” and “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” They are timeless in their moral message, and their simple and natural characters will be telling their stories as long as we have a human history.

    Another slave, Uncle Remus, is also well-known for the tales collected and published by Joel Chandler Harris, especially those involving “Br’er Rabbit.” I’m also quite fond, though he is no Aesop nor Uncle Remus , of James Thurber’s “Fables for Our Times” and “Further Fables for Our Times.” They’re a bit above the heads of the pre-kindergarten crowd in their diction and sometimes in their plots.

    Finally, I would be greatly remiss if I did not recommend William J. Bennett’s definitive treasury of tales for children, especially ages 4-8, “The Children’s Book of Virtues.” It ought to be in every home’s library. But don’t forget the public library is always close at hand. You just need, as you consider the welfare of the children in your care, to keep workin’ on it.

    Raymond J. Rundus is a professor emeritus at UNC-Pembroke. He has lived in Cypress Lakes since 1985 and is former president of the Cypress Lakes Men’s Golf Association. He can be reached at

  10. Raymond Rundus Says:

    I am pleased and a bit overwhelmed by the variety of these responses.

    I hope many more readers of this blog, whether casual or committed, will be generous in sharing their experiences with (1) reading to a child or (2) being read to themselves as a child.

    One particular book I remember getting for Christmas during World War II (I was perhaps nine or ten) was from my dear OldMaidAunt Grace, who was especially fond of her seven nephews (her niece turned out to be a very good executor of her estate).

    The book was titled simply “Bambi” and it was written by Felix Salton. As a side note, I must protest the use of that name for a female as Salton’s Bambi was all boy and working on getting successfully to staghood. (There was quite a brouhaha a few years ago about a female criminal named “Bambi” who escaped to Canada from US legal prosecution. For some reason, many of my fellow citizens became enamored of Bambi and wanted her to be free forever–maybe in a sort of Robin Hood syndrome. I concluded, ultimately, that “Bimbo” would have been a more appropriate name for this not-so-young woman.)

    Salton’s book has some pretty grown-up themes in it, the primary one involving the death of Bambi’s father at the hands of a hunter, so one might be a bit cautious about offering it to a child sensitive about such experiences. A companion book to “Bambi” might be Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ “The Yearling,” which was make into a quite good movie. Some of you will recall the Walt Disney cartoon version of “Bambi,” with the young deer having unlikely sidekicks in Thumper the Rabbit the Pepe Lepew, the Skunk: great name, what?)

    Thanks to my dear friend Tammy for pushing forward my most recent “Sandspur” column by copying and pasting it into the text of her comment on this blog. It was, I believe, one of the best columns I have done, and if you go to the “Sandspur” website directly, you will find a very nice photo (taken by our daughter) that shows me reading to Ava a year or two ago. Just go to and click on “Opinion” and you will find the link to this column.

    Merry Christmas to all once again!


  11. Macky Myers Says:

    When my two daughters were still in elementary school, I invested in a complete set of E. D. Hirsh’s Cultural Literacy books which are grade appropriate and may be purchased at Barnes and Noble. Needless to say, both girls read many other books, too, but the Hirsh collection supplemented reading with a set age appropriate goal in mind and not just a shotgun reading approach.

    The classic stories every child should know are included. In addition, expressions, idioms, adages, etc. are exposed to young readers as well.

  12. fayettenam hoe Says:

    have a happy and safe holiday raymond, sincerly; hoe hoe hoe

  13. Tammy Stephens Says:


    What an adorable pic of Ava! They grow up too fast.
    Merry Christmas!

  14. Forest Crump Says:

    Excellent article in the Sandspur, Raymond, you are a dear and sweet soul.

    I read to my daughter when she was three, four, five, and we progressed along from me reading everything to alternating sentences.

    Being an avid reader myself I was pleased that my daughter enjoyed reading and her imagination soared beyond the words that we read. We had to hunt down the perfect crystal that some character in a series of books had.

    Then in elementary school they had this big drive to read X number of books and we had to read book after book, after book, to meet the schools goals and it ceased to be fun for either of us.

    One thing I did notice while reading to her, most authors of children books add emotions at the end of a sentence such as, “…he said angrily or happily,” the emotion should be at the first of the sentence so that the reader knows with what emotion to read it with. “With anger in his voice he said…”

  15. D. Says:

    My favorite book, before I could read on my own, was the Little Golden Book “Little Mommy” and I’d ask my mom and dad to read it every night. I realized one night, when she was reading it to my two younger sisters and I, that she was reading it with her eyes shut. I asked her, ” How can you read with your eyes closed?” She replied that she had read it so many times over and over to me that she had it memorized–and to this day she can recite it word for word. I have our copy of the book and have read it to my own daughters as they grew up. Our home library is full of books from my childhood and teenage years so there are plenty of favorites there.

    My youngest daughter just turned 11 and she enjoys reading the books I have on the shelf. Of course there are the classics (Alice in Wonderland, The Little House series, Judy Blume’s series, Marguerite Henry, and my mother’s books among them) as well as the contemporaries (American Girl series–we go through one girl’s series before we start another, Pony Pals, The Magic Tree House, and Teri Farley’s Phantom Stallion series–we personally know her) among others. We gave our grandchildren books for Christmas and I will always give books as a gift as their worth never decreases in value. It’s a pleasure to see her read a book for the first time and reflect on when I first read it, too.

    When you open a book, you open your mind to a whole different world.

  16. Disgusted Says:

    Merry Christmas Dr. R.!!
    Also a very Merry Christmas to all the blogging community on this most Holy Night.

  17. prayerwarrior_52 Says:

    (just a quick note: atheists do have a holiday, April 1)
    One of my favorite books growing up was Aesop’s Fables and I still have the original copy given to me many years ago..

  18. Raymond Rundus Says:

    This particular posting is showing some promise of continuing its existence for some long time, and I am pleased. Just a couple of observations here:
    (1) Thanks to all of you who brought greetings from Santa or from Santa’s Creator. We may not have had a White Christmas, but the holiday offered everyone a chance to reflect, to slow down, and to once again perhaps encounter and engage higher purposefulness as we celebrate being given life and granted opportunity in the world we inhabit, the community in which we live, and in the family which we call ours.
    (2) On a more mundane level. I was interested in what Forest Crump observed about the writers of books, maybe here especially those who write children’s books. They seem to try to create emotion by using a “value word” at the end of sentences. Forest believes such expressions would be used more effectively at the beginning of sentences. Most often, we are talking her about the uses of (1) adverbs and (2) prepositional phrases.
    My take: Lately in browsing around in a local bookstore, I skimmed through a few pages of a “romance novel” by Nora Roberts. I had just read an extensive profile of Ms. Roberts by Lauren Collins in the June 22 [I am way behind here] issue of “The New Yorker.” You probably know that, in a different way than that of Dame J.K. Rowling, Roberts has become immensely wealthy via her prolific output and ultraterrific popularity. According to Collinsin “Real Romance,” Roberts has written, not counting her short stories and novellas, 182 novels. Her editor estimates that 27 of her books are sold each minute. Her output would fill Giants Stadium four times over. “Publishers Weekly” in 2008 had three of her novels among the ten best-selling mass-market paperbacks.
    What I noticed, after a cursory inspection of her writing, is that Ms. Roberts seems almost as fond of adverbs as was the writer who did the “Tom Swift” series close to a century ago now and that has been ridiculed ever sense (in part by yours truly via this “Blog”). Such a stylistic quirk sends to me a kind of red flag about the writer’s creativity: working by formula rather than by admirable imagination and inspiration. The test for the KidLit crowd: Does Dr. Seuss use adverbs to increase emotional or spiritual response? How many words are used in “Green Eggs and Ham”?
    My point here is that concrete words as well as, again in KidLit, visual imagery or illustrations, ought to carry the story forward effectively and efficiently.
    What think you?


  19. Ann Marie Demers Says:

    Since I don’t have children of my own, I’ll have to comment on being read to as a child.
    My mother, who was uneducated, having not even completed high school, but certainly not illiterate, used to read to me from the Little Golden Books. She had an innate intelligence and would have made a wonderful teacher had she been allowed to continue her education. But I digress……..
    My mother would read to me for hours on end from those Little Golden Books that were popular when I was a child in the 1950s. I don’t know how many of those were ever published, but I remember having many, many of those thin little books, so many that I don’t even really remember the stories now, after so many years, but I loved every one of them. When Mom offered to read to me, I would go to the bookcase where my books were stored and pull out a large pile of them. We would sit snuggled together in my father’s big reclining chair and she would read until her voice became hoarse and she would finally say “Mommy can’t read any more”. She read to me so often that I was able to pull out a book and sit there and “read” to myself, and without really being able to read — I was still too young at that point — I could turn the pages at the exact point necessary. To everyone’s amazement, I had memorized the stories !
    By our reading sessions, my mother instilled in me a love of reading that has never waned. I believe that the foundation she gave me — teaching me the alphabet, and some rudimentary instruction in reading — made the learning once I got to school (at age 4 1/2) much easier. She created an excitement for learning new things. Though I also read for fun — books like the Nancy Drew mystery series, the Bobbsey Twins series, animal stories like Black Beauty and National Velvet — much of my reading as a pre-teen was in subjects like anthropology, astronomy, medicine, and the paranormal, interests that continue to this day.
    Literacy is indeed an important skill for all of us, and studies show that keeping the brain active into our golden years can help to stave off diseases like Alheimer’s. We should be “seekers of knowledge” all our lives.

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