Find Your Magic!

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Do you like to read? I do! It’s hard to remember a time I didn’t love books or reading. When I was a little girl growing up in a small rural town in North Carolina, we had a quaint local library. It wasn’t very big – about the size of a small book shop. Going there in the summer, especially, was one of my favorite things. It was so peaceful to just wander through the rows of books until one would catch my attention. I would read the jacket, skim through the book, and try to make a connection to the story or the character. If it pulled me in, then it became my new adventure for a couple of weeks. I still love going to the library. Yes, I am fully aware of e-books and downloads. I’ve tried it, but there’s just nothing like holding my books when I read them – I even love their smell. Maybe one day that will change, but for now, my little plastic membership card has its designated slot in my wallet.

We are pretty avid readers in our house. It’s not uncommon to hear, “What are you reading?” or “I just finished a book I think you will love!”. We habitually read to our children starting in infancy. It’s difficult to say exactly how many times we read their favorite books over and over. Sometimes on rainy afternoons, we would pile up on my bed and read book after book until our eyelids got too heavy to see the pages. OK, so that was me, but the children still enjoyed it, too! Sure, we read to them for educational purposes – to build vocabulary, increase language skills, to connect physically and emotionally – but mostly, we read to them because we wanted them to develop a love for reading and learning. My two oldest children will devour quality fiction. They each graduated from college with degrees in English, so I like to think those rainy afternoons and bedtime battles were not in vain. Our youngest loves nonfiction. He is gifted in and speaks a language of technology that sounds more like Portuguese to me. From the time he was tiny, he has been fascinated with facts and information. “How-To” and “Did You Know?” books were almost always his pick. Many (and by many I mean almost all) nights our dinner conversations centered around some obscure facts he had discovered that day or a science lesson he felt compelled to teach to his uninformed family. Thankfully, they all still love to read for entertainment, inspiration, and knowledge. This Momma/teacher would be lying if she said she wasn’t just a little proud of that. My husband likes to “read” in the car. He spends a lot of time driving to client meetings and job sites, so he and Audible have developed quite a close relationship. As an elementary Reading Specialist, much of my day is spent doing exactly as you would expect – reading. I read news articles, professional/educational materials, and teaching manuals. Most of the hours consist of reading a wide variety of elementary-aged literature with little people. By the time I arrive home most days, there are usually many other tasks that attract my attention. Often, my personal reading gets pushed to the back burner. Dedicating more time to that is one of my top priorities for this new year.

A while back, one of my dearest friends and I were discussing the relationship between reading and personal growth. She commented that when she is consistently reading, she notices growth and improvement in all aspects of her life – personal, spiritual, and professional. I decided to start paying attention to her theory. Not surprising at all, she was right! Since then, I strive to have at least one or two books on my nightstand at all times. Normally, I’m not quite so ambitious, but at this writing, there are five:
“Girl, Wash Your Face” – Rachel Hollis
I’ve already read this twice, but I keep it close by for those days I need some encouragement. Hollis writes as if she’s standing in front of you cheering you on. She is funny, authentic, and motivating! I just ordered her second one, “Girl, Stop Apologizing”. I can’t wait to read it, too!
“Bird by Bird”, Anne Lamott – one of the best and most referenced books for writers about writing. It offers wisdom and instruction on writing and life. It’s been a great companion to me since beginning this blog. It’s good stuff!
“We Are All Good People Here” – Susan Rebecca White
I don’t know much about this novel, but I’m looking forward to reading it. It’s on several “must-read” lists and comes highly recommended by one of my favorite authors, Emily Giffin.
“Becoming” – Michelle Obama
This one really needs no commentary. I am so excited to hear and read her story. I actually downloaded this one, by the way. My plan is to follow along in my book while also listening to the former First Lady narrate. I’ve been waiting since summer to check this off my list!
“Big Magic” – Elizabeth Gilbert.
I’m just a few chapters in, but already her words are sparking all kinds of inspiration and encouragement. Author of, “Eat, Pray, Love”, Gilbert is known for her ability to weave a colorful pattern with words. This book encourages you to find the creativity within yourself and get busy to make it happen. That’s my plan!

Once upon a time in a first-grade class, I had a little boy who struggled with reading. It was such an incredibly difficult task for him. We worked and practiced and practiced and worked until he began making some pretty good strides. At the end of the year, he was not exactly where I had hoped he would be, nonetheless, significant growth had been made. One morning the following year he came to see me before the bell rang. He asked if I would allow him to come read to my new first graders. Now, I never turn down a child who wants to practice reading! The new teacher and I set up a time for him to visit. I will always remember his sweet little face as he came beaming through my door. His book held close, he stood proudly as I introduced him to my group of little ones. He took his seat of honor in my Dr. Seuss chair at the front of the room and began to read the story about a snowman. The words flowed carefully and steadily, and he stopped before turning each page to show the pictures. I watched from the back of the room, my heart bursting with pride and puddling up in my eyes. He read that book like a champ! This little guy had come so far. There had been many hurdles to jump over in his short life – at home and at school – but he did it! This precious one persevered until he found the key and unlocked the magic of words and reading. This isn’t the end of the story – for him, the whole world has opened up and it’s just beginning.

So here’s my short spiel – reading is important. It puts your brain to work – like exercise. The more you read, the more active your brain. The more it is active, the more it grows and makes connections – both socially and emotionally. Our brains change and develop when we read. Reading helps us with reasoning and problem-solving skills. Reading develops comprehension and emotional intelligence. It can slow down cognitive decline and improve concentration. On that evidence alone, I should be reading 24/7! Reading stories from other places, rich in diversity, and about social issues helps strengthen and broaden our perspectives of people and situations around us. The world suddenly becomes bigger and closer all at the same time. It’s also not abnormal to read just for the sake of sheer enjoyment. Reading has certainly unlocked my imagination and sparked creativity on more than one occasion! Test my friend’s theory for yourself. See how opening your mind to new stories, ideas and perspectives can unlock creativity, growth, and motivation in your own life. Find a story, some poems, a place, a “how-to”, a biography, spiritual encouragement – any book. Challenge yourself, exercise your brain, expand your world, improve, take a journey. Find your magic and just read.

Sincerely,

Beth

“Words are, in my not so humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic…”. Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter, and the Deathly Hallows

Published by Elizabeth Sharpe

My name is Elizabeth Sharpe, but to most, I'm just "Beth". I am a wife, mom, educator, and lover of all things good and kind. I love to share my stories and reflections to connect with others. It is my hope to encourage and inspire readers in some small way as we journey life together.

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