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READING: The ABCs of helping youngsters achieve literacy--the
first skill. | Reading by 9

Discovering Books

When The Reading Light Went On

July 18, 1999

Gary Phillips, a writer of mysteries with a political edge, has a new book, "The Jook," coming out this fall.

I was forced to read. My mother was a librarian, my dad was a mechanic, so my parents made me read when I came home from grade school. But then I got to love reading. I wasn't tied up, but I had to sit and read something because it was a way into another world. They didn't use the words "critical thinking," but that was the point--to achieve critical thinking.

When I was a kid, 9 or 10, my dad would buy me comic books, and to make sure that I was reading them, he would have me tell him what the stories were about. I read everything. "Captain America," "Spiderman," "Fantastic Four," "Batman."

Because I was able to read and had a grasp of it, I sought out things that I wanted to read, and that was comic books, and my dad encouraged that. My dad only made it to the sixth grade. He had to work. That was during the Depression. Education was very important to him.

Way after college, 1989, when I was fired from a union job, I wrote my first mystery. I took an extension class on mystery writing. It had been burning in the back of my head because I was a mystery reader.

As long as someone is reading either comic books or juvenile novels or mighty tomes or calculus, they are reading. The act of reading is one of the things that helps us to form the notion of what it is to be a critical thinker.

Buying books and encouraging reading, and reading to them, these are things my wife and I do with our kids now.

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