Monday, February 18, 2019

Presidents' Day Musing

Happy Presidents' Day! While the children in school today talk about George Washington chopping down the cherry tree or Abe Lincoln splitting rails, those of us at home sitting before our computers have a chance to muse over other aspects of what made a president a president. For me with a master's degree in education and reading, today is the perfect day to reflect on the impact reading had on our American leaders.

The catalyst to my train of thought goes back to a column in the "For the Record" op-ed section in today's Charlotte Observer. Guest columnist Mark West writes about the importance of reading to character development. According to what he discovered, President Theodore Roosevelt typically read a book a day.

(Way to go, Teddy!)

What an example for a child in class today. Chopping down cherry trees shows them the value of telling the truth. Splitting rails shows them the importance of hard labor. Teachers now need to add this one more story to the line up of legends passed along on Presidents' Day.

In his special column, Mr. West goes on to elaborate about how essential reading is to the development of one specific character trait, empathy. "By reading about people whose lives were so different from his own, Roosevelt developed a sense of empathy for these people." If learning about others is a direct result of the reading process, then taking action, it seems logical, would be its by-product. What the world needs now, I must suggest, is empathy.

Reading that George didn't tell a lie about chopping down the tree and about Abe working hard splitting logs into rails is a rite of passage of American school children. Might I be brazen enough to add this one more yearly legend: Rough and Ready Teddy reads a book a day! Imagine a generation of children brought up aware that a president developed this essential ethic called empathy through reading and reacting.

Don't lie. Work hard. Read a book a day.

Catch of the day,



  1. "Rough and Ready Teddy reads a book a day!" I love it! :)

    1. Maybe I ought to write an historical nonfiction picture book with that title!

  2. Replies
    1. Thanks, Catherine. Imagine the lesson with Theodore and the books.

  3. It would be great to see how much, and what other presidents read. I do know that George Washington read a book while he was growing up about civility. Then for fun, he copied the entire book by hand! I think that this had a huge role in the type of character that he developed, and the leader that he become.

    1. I've heard that John Kennedy could speed read through books. Book TV asks senators and representatives what books they are currently reading and their answers always amaze me. I've even gone to the library to find some of those books to read.