Leyendo a Mi Madre

By Mary Hunt Webb

Posted Friday, February 27, 2015

A photographic image of a reader published in the 1930s.

This charming vintage children's schoolbook provides insight to the way reading was taught in the first half of the twentieth century. [Photographer: Morris Webb, Jr.*]

I was blessed with a wonderful mother that read. She often fell asleep reading a book or a magazine in bed and kept reading material in the bathroom, too. Therefore, it is not surprising that she encouraged me to read to her and to myself as well. When she was at home, she asked me to read to her while she cooked or performed other tasks. Accordingly, I read the weather report from the newspaper to her every morning. She took me to our church library and had me check out books that I thought were too hard. We sat down and read those together. That was amazing because she worked full time so that she seldom sat down when she was at home.

Mother also bought comic books to encourage me to read on my own. Comic books were frowned upon at that time as being a waste of time for children and not helpful to encouraging them to read. My mother thought otherwise. She believed that the pictures drew my attention to the text so that I would read the words in order to understand the action. It was her hope that comic books would cause me to enjoy reading. It worked. Mother was ahead of her time. Today there are illustrated editions of such classic works as Ivanhoe, Moby Dick, Oliver Twist, Pride and Prejudice, The Three Musketeers, and The Time Machine.

A photographic image of a book enititled, 'The Time Machine', by H.G. Wells.

With large print and an illustration on every other page, this edition of The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells, encourages young readers to make the transition from children's books to classic literature. [Photographer: Morris Webb, Jr.*]

Most information was printed on paper until recently. At church, we sang songs from hymnbooks with hard backs rather than reading text from video screens. My mother ran her finger under each word in the hymnal for me to follow along and sing with the adults.

There was no children's church. Although I attended Sunday School with others in my age group, I went with my mother to services in the sanctuary. It's what children now often call "big church." When scripture was read, we read it from the Bible rather than from a big screen on the wall. I never owned a children's storybook Bible. As a result, I learned to read long words, such as "righteousness," while I was still a young child. Consequently, I developed a large vocabulary at an early age.

When I started attending a six-year secondary school at age 12, I had access to books that older teenagers read. I remember checking out books from my school's library and taking them home. Mother not only approved of them, but she read some of them before I did.

Even after high school and in college, I read books for pleasure during the summers. Most young men showed that they did not understand my literary interests when they gave me gifts of flowers, candy, and cologne. The fellow that captured my heart gave me a large Spanish-English dictionary as a birthday present not long after we met.

A photographic image of the spine of my Cassell's Spanish Dictionary.

Although it is now well-worn after years of use, this is the Cassell's Spanish Dictionary that my husband gave me for my birthday a few weeks after we met. [Photographer: Morris Webb, Jr.*]

At that time, I lived in the language dormitory of a large university. When my dorm mates, saw that dictionary, they said, "Ooh! He loves you!"

The girls were right. He and I married the following summer and have been buying books for each other ever since. Therefore, it was natural that we started reading the Bible cover to cover, especially since modern translations had begun to appear in the 1960s.

As an enthusiastic reader, my biggest concern is that we now have a generation of youth, young adults and middle-aged people that don't read. They focus on videos, video games, and other electronic entertainment. To give an example, when an announcement was put in our church bulletin earlier this year, it ran for four weeks, but I learned that the younger people in our church were unaware of that information because they didn't bother to read the bulletin. I recognize that if it's not displayed on a screen, they don't read it!

I have also noticed that many people don't read labels. They look for products by color or by packaging. When the packaging changes, they can't find the product. They also don't know what is in the package because people don't read the label. That means they can be sold anything because they don't bother to read.

More important than not reading labels, many people don't read contracts or so-called "agreements". For example, a few years ago, I wrote online articles for a particular company. When another firm bought that company, they sent me an "agreement" to sign. Not everyone that had been writing for the original company was selected to write for the new firm, but I was. My selection as one of their writers was supposed to be an honor, but when I read the "agreement," I found a clause that was clearly to their advantage but that could have caused problems for me. Consequently, I declined the opportunity to write for them. I still have my reputation intact because I read the agreement.

Reading is a life skill that can save us from trouble if we use it. Conversely, we can encounter trouble if we fail to read.

Second Thessalonians 2:15 advises, "Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle." (King James Version)

An "epistle" is a letter. The apostle Paul wrote letters to the Christians that he had previously visited. They could not have learned from those letters if they had not read them or heard them read aloud, as I did for my mother. Reading is more than just a tradition. It forms bonds between people that have never met and strengthens bonds between those that have.

People who don't bother to read are no better off than those who never learned how to read. Since you are reading this, you clearly have an advantage. You can share your enthusiasm for reading by encouraging family members and loved ones to read to you while you work as my mother encouraged me. I often take a small book along when my husband and I go places so that I can read to him if we have to wait in a doctor's office, wait in line, or wait for food at a restaurant. He also reads to me when he comes across an interesting article in a magazine. It took some time for him to get used to doing that because it was not something his family had practiced when he was growing up. However, now he enjoys it and says he finds comfort in hearing my voice. Reading to each other has also reduced the amount of television we watch.

Reading doesn't have to be a solitary activity. Like anything we enjoy doing, it is more interesting when we share it with those we care about - as I did with my mother.


2 Thessalonians 2:15 — 15) Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle." (King James Version)

2 Tesalonicenses 2:15 — 15) Así que, hermanos, estad firmes, y retened la doctrina que habéis aprendido, sea por palabra, o por carta nuestra. (Reina-Valera 1960)

A photographic image of two cats in a pile of books.

Only humans can read. These cats are content with looking at the pictures. [Photographer: Geoffrey Whiteway. Photo courtesy of]

* Please do not use our original photos without our permission. These include photos by Mary Hunt Webb, Morris Webb, Jr., Morris Webb, Sr., and C.B. Hunt. Thank you.

Return to the top of the page