We all know the importance of reading. We also know that in the electronic age in which we live there are too many things that grab the attention of our children. All these video games, television shows, movies and other entertainments take the children away from books.
It is not saying electronic devices are bad, but we are saying that nothing develops the mind power as much as reading.
When children watch all the action, color, and movement, they do not have to understand the written word. Their brains are put in cold storage to be brought out to function only when they are forced to do so. To be healthy, there must be a balanced mix of activities.
Sports give children a much-needed lesson in life. No one can be a winner all the time. It is alright to be the loser when you do your best.
Shame only comes when the athlete does not practice good health habits or does not give his best to the team. This is a life lesson. It prepares one for the real life issues after school is over.
There are many agencies working to make reading important to children.
There have been many innovative methods to stimulate reading for the younger children. This does not work as well at the high school level. By this age, the emphasis is more on passing the required course work and preparing for college.
The old, hated method of doing a research paper is still the most successful way to “force feed” unwilling minds. That is why I began students in the seventh grade researching and writing. Since I had the same students for grades 7-9, I could increase the size and the work needed each year until they were comfortable with the process.
In the more progressive school systems, children do some sort of research writing much earlier. We can argue about methods all day, but the results prove the method.
Most everyone knows that I began college at the age of 36. I finished the BS Degree when I was 40. That year, my husband had a massive heart attack and open heart surgery that was not too successful because of heart muscle damage.
Thus began 22 years of teaching, going to graduate school and being a care-giver. Doing graduate courses at night, weekends and summers was not easy.
In the field of English, I had research papers in every class. What to do? I did not have time to stay at the college library, so I bought the books needed and did my research at night after my meal was cooked and the kitchen cleaned.
Therefore, after three graduate degrees, I had amassed a very large research library.
I began to get calls from the students at the various colleges asking for help in research. I spent many weekends at the kitchen table with books spread out teaching the “how-to’s” of research writing. There were older women students, also, who had returned to college to update degrees after the death of their husband.
They needed to renew teaching certification. Added to this were high school seniors trying to get the last grades for graduation.
So the library amassed over many years was much used in my home. I remember one college young man from Birmingham who called and asked for “The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne. A very large class had been assigned the book and a paper.
By the time he got to the libraries and bookstores, it could not be found. I told him I had it somewhere in the house. We had just moved to Smith Lake and I did not have them unpacked and on the shelf. He drove up and went through all the boxes stacked in the garage, found it in the last box, grabbed it out and danced all over the yard with it in his arms.
He took the study books by many writers and returned home to do his work. Those were some of the most rewarding times of my life.
As you all know, Carbon Hill High School burned and their library was gone. The tornado came and took another big part of the school system.
My son, James Cecil Files, was a graduate of Carbon Hill High School in 1962. His uniform number was 21. I had long wondered where I would place my research English library. I didn’t have to wonder any more.
I talked with the librarian at the school. She came with help to load and 425 literary books were given to the school in memory of my son.
I loved my books. They were my most cherished possession. I will be greatly rewarded if they are widely used and students leave that school for college prepared for their next step in life.
I have to say, also, that my lovely daughter-in-law, Judy Campbell Files, was a graduate of Carbon Hill High School and added her part to the athletic program as a Majorette in the Marching Band. James and Judy were high school sweethearts. They had two sons, Jamie and Jeffrey, who have made their mark in life.
James deceased much too soon, but his memory lingers on in our hearts. So to Carbon Hill students, when you pick up one of the books to do your research, think of the hands that have touched these books many times and the young athlete in whose memory they were placed in the library.
To our readers, if you have good books on your shelf find a school and place them there. By doing so, you may help another child find the joys in the written word.