By Qin Sun Stubis
(originally published in The Santa Monica Star)
In the West, those who are “born with a silver spoon in their mouth” find themselves with privileges that separate them from those who do not enjoy such advantages. This kind of seeming benefit often plays a mighty role in our lives, paving rosy paths for some while sending others tumbling down a rocky road. But, fortunately for most of us, life is not just about fairness, but experience.
Luckily, such socio-economic disparities don’t exist in the minds of innocent children, at least not during the initial few years of our lives. When we first arrive in this world, we are sheltered within a relatively small space surrounded by four walls called home, filled with those who care for us. In our little eyes, our home is a safe haven devoid of turbulence, worries, and dangers, full of doting adults and their caring voices.
At a tender age, neither social status nor wealth carry any meaning. A comfortable life often centers around adequate food and love. And, the best early memory is falling asleep in a parent’s arms while reading a favorite book, a grownup’s voice serving as a lullaby. At least that’s what I remember of my early years in a slum in 1960s Shanghai.
I remember the tiny hut my father built for us with its twisted wooden beams, our squeaking bed covered with a bamboo mat, and mosquito net overhead. I remember the amber light from a bare light bulb glowing above our heads. And most of all, I remember snuggling against the warmth of my mother’s body while she read from my dog-eared children’s books.
Although those golden years ran parallel with China’s going through famine, natural disasters, and ever-escalating political battles, I wasn’t aware of this. I didn’t know that we were constantly at the verge of starvation, or that anything was wrong with having cabbage porridge every night, for as long as I had my stack of little books, my mother, and the bed, I went to sleep with happy dreams.
In some ways, a lifelong companionship with books can be so easily established through our early memories and experiences. And as we grow, our knowledge about the world expands not just through living but reading. When we encounter hardships in life, our favorite books often have the power to pull us through. When we have doubts about what decisions to make, the wisdom we’ve extracted from words can guide us.
A good life starts with books. Don’t forget how much we can enrich our children’s lives by giving them books and reading to them. Whet their appetites for knowledge and jump start a happy and healthy life. So, be you a parent, grandparent, uncle or aunt, or just a neighbor, remember that in this modern age with its many distractions and entertaining temptations, books are still our children’s best friends.
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