Submitted by Janet Stone McGuigan
Finding ourselves stuck at home as the weather turns cooler and the infection rate ticks up, knowing that vaccines are tantalizingly on their way but not quite here, it is easy to bemoan all the activities COVID has curtailed. But as we mark the end of a trying year by making lists of COVID-friendly resolutions, we can consider one pleasure that the weather and pandemic cannot deny us, and that is reading.
Many book clubs have continued to meet virtually and have served as sustaining means of connection even as others are severed. Many of us are picking up challenging works of literature that we might not have in busier times. And there is something transcending about literature when the world seems full of doom, gloom and disagreement. Books like Ulysses and Lolita – love them or hate them – it is a delight when we can talk about them.
At a recent public meeting of the Greenwich PTA Council, Dr. Ernie Fleishman, a past Superintendent of Greenwich Schools, reminded us of the importance of raising good writers. It doesn’t matter how our world is changing, our children need to know how to communicate. A key to the path to good writing is reading. According to the Pew Research Center, the average American only reads twelve books a year. Our children are watching us.
Growing up, I was so lucky to have a father who read to me every night. I aspired to do the same for my children, but we know the fate of good intentions. I am sympathetic to parents who are too tired at the end of the day to read to their children. So I share my best mom hack here: audio books! Listening to books together provided us with endless hours of entertainment. They saved our sanity on long car trips. They got us through Reading Olympics. And rather than cut off conversation, they gave us something to talk about as a family.
But audio books are not just for kids. Well past the point of reading with my boys, I still love listening to them. And I am thrilled to learn there might be a direct benefit. Even as the number of Americans suffering from dementia increases because of a growing, longer-lived population, the rate at which dementia strikes is decreasing. More research is needed, but many experts believe that as we better understand this disease, we recognize the importance of keeping our minds active and engaged. Yep, reading fits that bill!
And if I hadn’t taken an opportunity that the pandemic allowed me, I wouldn’t have come across the word “nookshotten,” which I think will serve as my Word of the Year. It means something with many corners or projections. Shakespeare used it, but it escaped my notice when I was reading his plays in my younger days. I was introduced to the word a few weeks ago while reading James Joyce’s Ulysses. I will own up, not on my own. With the help of a Joyce scholar, who my book group had the pleasure of meeting through the Cos Cob Library. A silver lining of this terrible virus. Which itself looks rather nookshotten.
Greenwich is so fortunate to have excellent public libraries, which are safely accessible online, and operating curbside pickups and returns. I hope this letter inspires you to check them out if you are not already a frequent visitor. It doesn’t matter what you read, just read. But of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say, make sure you get your daily dose of the Greenwich Free Press!