Reading to children proves therapeutic

Published 10:31 am Saturday, March 15, 2014

by Stephen H. Cowles

A few weeks ago I was invited to visit the Children’s Center in Courtland. The occasion was to participate in the National Read Across America Day, which also celebrates the birthday of your friend and mine: Dr. Seuss. That occasion fell on a Sunday this year, but the plan to read on the first available school was derailed by the snowstorm.

Between the original date and the reading, I had forgotten that Dr. Seuss (aka Theodore Seuss Geisel) was the reason for the season. Meanwhile I found myself contemplating what book to pick. The idea of reading excerpts from my diary or even “Dracula” made me smile. Realistically I knew both would be unsuitable. The first is actually non-existent, and the second is way beyond the comprehension of pre-schoolers and – sadly – some adults.

My home is a veritable library, though without the Dewey Decimal System. Alas, few books are intended for the age group served by the Children’s Center. However, on one shelf there is an illustrated edition of Walt Disney’s “Mary Poppins.” My brother, Michael, found it at a yard sale or flea market, and thought I would appreciate it. Indeed, it’s a treasure to me.

Next to it are “Red Riding Hood” and “Cinderella,” both featuring photographer William Wegman’s famous Weimaraners. The pictures of the dogs wearing costumes are a real hoot, but the text is surprisingly more dense than you might expect.

Reminded that Dr. Seuss was the subject, I considered then which book to read. “Cat in the Hat” was too obvious a choice, and “Horton Hears a Who” seemed cliché.

On the day of the reading, though, I picked “Hop on Pop,” another personal favorite.

Two girls smiled, jumped up and down and applauded practically every page I read. That did wonders for my self-confidence.

We had time for another equally entertaining story, which had to do with feet. Again, more applause and smiles from my new fan club.

All that has sparked an idea for a new kind of therapy. In the future, whenever I’m feeling blue, I’ll find an excuse to read to children. Happiness is just pages away.

STEPHEN H. COWLES is the staff writer at The Tidewater News. He especially likes “Go Dog, Go!” He can be contacted at 562-3187 or