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Too tired? Too busy? Muster the energy and time. Read a book to your child.

Take a moment and read this story in The New York Times. In short, a doctor tells of a 74 year old patient who couldn’t get his medicines correct.

Mr. M was a typical new patient: 74, with diabetes, hypertension and elevated cholesterol. He had some prostate enlargement and back pain. His bag of pill bottles was depressingly bulky. I spilled the bottles out at our first visit, sorting them by disease. … Mr. M didn’t remember the names of all the medicines … Mr. M was clearly still confused about his medicines…

[Source, NYT, A Problem in Following Doctor’s Orders by DANIELLE OFRI, M.D.]

In the end, we learn that Mr. M is illiterate, unable to read either Spanish or English. The story would be similar to many other stories of illiteracy leaving us emphatic, but emotionally disconnected, had it not been for the last paragraph.

My kindergarten-age daughter is just beginning to read, and she is taken aback with delirious joy each time a few random letters suddenly form a word that matches real life. It’s a painstaking process for her, but as I watch her I think about how this skill has powerful ramifications for her health and longevity. It’s a gift, really, one that I’d long to transfer to Mr. M if I could.

[Source, NYT, A Problem in Following Doctor’s Orders by DANIELLE OFRI, M.D.]

I know that joy! My son has become quite the avid reader. He no longer wants to be the listener; he wants to be the one who reads aloud. And I too wish I could give that gift to Mr. M.

Remember, they are never too old to participate in reading with you; whether you are the listener or the reader, make time to sit with your child and a book.