KEVIN HALE: Heroes guide us on a heroic path | Columnists


Susan Brunson Bishop and Allisa T. Henkel are my heroines. They are the inspiration for a wonderful show that promotes literacy for Decatur’s children, “Really READiculous”.

“Really READiculous” is performance art based on books and they bring the books to life. They bring talent, creativity and wonderful skills when acting and performing the wonders of reading. They give the lyrics live action and a life-changing zeal.

I love them and love that they give kids a taste of the magic of reading. These two heroes impart word comprehension to children who may have limited reading comprehension skills. They use hilarity and wonderful understanding. They help relieve the intimidation of opening a book for young readers. Susan and her friend ease the fear and embarrassment of the challenge of learning to read.

I’m not sure “Really READiculous” understands the extent of their greatness. Their performances make reading ridiculously fun.

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Dr. Charles Edward Hale was Director of the Staley Library for 25 years. I was brought up on books and literature. My father once told me that the books would be erased one day. They would be thrown in dumpsters, burned, recycled and taken to landfills and the written page would no longer exist. I laughed and laughed. I couldn’t imagine not holding a book. The idea was hilarious in tone and structure. My father must have lived in an “Orwellian 1984” type dimension.

Some psychologists and scientists say that touching the paper and turning the page is rewarding for our minds. Visualizing letters and pictures unlocks key parts of our minds and helps us navigate the maze of our brains. We use books to allow our minds to travel to places, times, and people we can never be a part of in real life. Books are time machines. Novels are travel guides and lifelong friends with whom we go on adventures.

There is a famous study that all schools should look into and put into practice in some way. It was a 1998 study by Anderson, Wilson, and Fielding. The study established the very simple and obvious fact that the more words you read per year, the better you score on state tests. The SAT test score increases if you read a lot.

For example, they found that if you read 5,327,000 words a year, you likely scored 36 on your state’s SAT. If you only read 42,700 words, you were on your way to getting a 13 on the SAT. This study should guide every school improvement plan in America. It opened my eyes to the possibility of helping our students unleash their greatness and the roadmap has been laid out in this study.

The answer to our children’s greatness doesn’t have to be rocket science. We don’t need wifi, computers, iPads, electronic gadgets and gadgets. We need books and a “rubber on the road” plan to allow children to sit down and read things that interest them in the subjects we teach.

Libraries should be repopulated with books, manuscripts, poetry and classic texts and filled with all areas of content that enlighten minds and open eyes to new problem solving. Problem solving that can lead young minds to open safes that unlock economic, business, and college opportunities. Libraries can be launching pads for individuals of all ages to acquire knowledge that will enlighten and enhance them.

I never understood why my parents read to me every night. I bristled at having to sit there and listen to the words come out of my mom and dad’s mouths. However, it created a connection. It expanded my vocabulary because whenever I didn’t understand a term or phrase, I asked them what it meant, and learned by falling asleep in their arms. I never knew my brain had phrases and vocabulary unlocked in my mind.

Invest in adult learning. The state must recognize that increased funding for literacy should not be limited to young learners alone. Libraries must become centers of book clubs and higher education in literacy for all ages and focus so that the citizens of our community and our country begin to better understand their environment. Let’s be honest – if your literacy level is limited, the contract you sign could rip you off. If you can read, you may be able to search for lower interest rates and better jobs. This means that reading puts money in everyone’s pocket.

We need to remove the stigma of reading books and drop game consoles. Reading the cell phone and the information it displays does not count as expansive reading for the mind. And social media is not a qualifier for sound reading.

Take a book and read for an hour a day. Books can take us to places we only dream of within the confines of the human mental landscape.

As schools move towards more technology, I say let’s get a little “old school.” Let’s invest in a way that has existed since schools were established. Books offer a way out. They can help people find lifelong, life-changing paths, scholarships, entertainment.

Thank you, Susan, Allisa and “Really READiculous”. All this time, you didn’t know you two wonders were heroes. do you have If there is a child sitting in your audience who finds a cure for an incurable disease because you have shown them that reading is fun, their path to greatness and perhaps the salvation of society, you are the most great heroes of the world.

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