Early exposure made it fun to read

Published on Tuesday, 14 February 2023 07:39

By Ed Stozek
For the Herald

Once a new semester started at the DRCSS, it was time for the students to receive their textbooks and other books related to their courses.

Some of the novels associated with the English courses that I taught included Great Expectations, The Night We Stole the Mounties Car, Animal Farm, and To Kill a Mockingbird.

Those novel titles recently made me think of the times in my formative years when I received my first Dick and Jane reader and learned to appreciate and love the written word.

Our teacher at the St. John one-room country school always read to the Grades 1 to 8 class for 15 minutes right after our lunch hour break. It was a great way to settle us down after we had participated in some vigorous outdoor activities. One year we followed Anne Shirley's adventures in Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables novel. Set in Prince Edward Island we were transported into the special world of Anne, an 11-year old orphan adopted by an elderly Matthew and his stern sister Marilla Cuthbert. They wanted a boy not a feisty red-headed girl.

Mrs. Kowalchuk spurred my interest in reading and encouraged us to read the books in our small school library. Lost in the Barrens by Canadian author Farley Mowat and other adventure filled books spurred one's imagination. We didn’t have many text books, however, in Grade 5, Canada Land of the Beaver and in Grade 6, Canada Then and Now gave us some basics of Canadian history. During my high school years, the textbooks relating to British history in Grade 9, the southern continents in Grade 10 and American history in Grade 11 all proved to be full of information for a budding historian.

My father kept well-documented records regarding his income and expenses relating to the farm operation. It is always an informative adventure to peruse those records. Recently in my conversation with my older sister, she remarked that our parents had to pay for textbooks and workbooks while she attended the St. John School and later at the high school at Oakburn.

For example, in 1954, when my sisters were in Grade 5 and Grade 8, an expense for $5 and $10.75 was entered for the cost of textbooks and workbooks. In an era of tough economic times some parents could not afford to pay for the textbooks and workbooks. One year my sister had to share her textbooks and workbooks with a schoolmate.

My friend Gerald mentioned that while attending Oukraina, a one-room country school in the RM of Dauphin, one could sell, buy or trade for used textbooks that were needed for the school year at Weselowski’s Store at Sifton.

Whenever my parents and I travelled to Brandon, one of my favourite stops included the Trade Fair and Exchange Store. Working with a very limited budget, used books were very inexpensive and one could spend a great deal of time searching for Louis L’Amour and Zane Grey westerns, as well as Ian Fleming’s James Bond series to add to my collection. Used comics also enhanced the reading repertoire.

Janice and I made it a habit to read a story to our children every night before bedtime. Today, our adult children do the same with their children. Whenever we have a chance, we read or tell a story to our grandchildren. Published in 1837, The Three Bears is still an all-time favourite.

One day last summer we watched an interview on television where author Jo Jakeman promoted her book, What His Wife Knew. It seemed like an interesting “whodonit” book so during the pandemic, we decided to take turns reading the book aloud to each other. We set aside some time each day to read a chapter and shared the experience of reading a book together. This year we have read The Girl They Left Behind and Tuesdays With Morrie.

From Dick and Jane to classics such as To Kill A Mockingbird, books provide many benefits for an individual.

Literature encourages one to use their imagination and appreciate the power of the written word.

Take note that February is I Love to Read Month.

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