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May 2, 2014

Francine Rivers: Sharing the Joy of Reading

Posted by emily

This year, we’re kicking off our Mother’s Day Blog series with a piece from bestselling author Francine Rivers, whose latest book is BRIDGE TO HAVEN. Here, she considers a parent’s role in instilling a love of reading in his or her child. Although Francine’s parents encouraged her to read, they were more practical-minded about their literature, and it wasn’t until she married into the eclectic Rivers family that she discovered the joy of genres. She and her husband made sure to pass along that joy to their children and grandchildren --- one of whom has even taken to writing fan fiction!

Though my parents encouraged me to read, my mom and dad had no time to read to us. They worked full-time and read nonfiction books and magazines that helped them in their professions (police officer and nurse) and in building our home from the foundation up. The best they could do to fan our interest was a bi-monthly visit to the library. I was a poor reader and avoided books whenever possible --- which is perplexing because I knew even as a young child that I wanted to be a writer.   

My interest in reading developed when I married into the Rivers family. Rick and his parents, his sister and grandparents all loved to read both fiction and nonfiction. It was my mother-in-law, Mom Edith, who passed along mysteries, historicals, sagas, romances and westerns that started the reading fire in me and led to a career in writing fiction.

Rick and I both believe reading to children instills a love of reading. As soon as Rick and I learned a baby was on the way, we started buying children’s books. Rick would sit beside me and read aloud while baby-in-womb responded with kicks and stretches. It was no surprise our children recognized Daddy’s voice in the delivery room the moment they were born. 

Our evening, reading time was precious to me and our children. For one thing, I read and loved all the books I’d avoided as a child. Our three children had their favorites when they were little. Watty Piper’s THE LITTLE ENGINE THAT COULD had a worn cover and pages, as did Joyce Warren’s A MOUSE TO BE FREE. That book inspired our children to spend their allowance on mice in the local pet store and then turn them loose in our backyard! Each year, we’d raise the bar, adding longer stories and then YA novels. C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia kept them enthralled for weeks. I read E.B. White’s CHARLOTTE’S WEB and Wilson Rawls’ WHERE THE RED FERN GROWS with a box of Kleenex close by. 

Our children are grown now with families of their own, and they are all readers. Several still enjoy the feel and scent of a “real” book, while others download to the latest technology. One is even writing fan fiction. Whenever we have had the golden opportunity of grandchildren staying overnight or for a week, I’ve grabbed a book to read before their bedtime. Several are now teenagers and bring their books along.   

In this high-tech, computer-game-oriented culture, children and adults still find that reading is something that can transport them into another time and place. Readers enter into the lives of fictional characters and see the world through different eyes. Reading employs the imagination, broadens and exercises the mind, and enriches our lives. Even as we grow older and more limited in our physicality, we can run and not faint. We can grow and rejoice. We can soar!