Updated: Mar 9, 2020
By Ms. Doyle
What was your favorite book when you were in elementary school? For many that I know it was Dr. Seuss or Where the Wild Things Are. It was a little different for me. The first book I remember loving was Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends. From the very beginning on the “Invitation”, I was hooked.
“If you are a dreamer, come in,
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer…
If you’re a pretender, come sit by my fire,
For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.
Some might say that it is silly and fun for a six-year-old to read. I saw it differently, even back then as a child. I was not eloquent enough to put into words what it made me feel at that age, but now that I am older it is easy for me to convey. The introduction itself is raw, deep and wonderful. It sparks the imagination and lets whoever is reading it know that they are welcome there in that literary world.
The short poems with their illustrations drew me in and never let me go. I must have read that book a thousand times as a kid, along with everything else Shel Silverstein wrote. So, when the Messenger told me that this week’s publication was going to have a special page dedicated to Read an Ebook Week, I could not help but think of Shel Silverstein.
My next thought was—where did that sidewalk end?
Pretty metaphorical in many ways, I know, but if one were to look at my life as movie on the big screen, they might say in many ways, it started with that book. Children, while complex in many facets, are also simple in some ways. What you give them, show them and teach them, when they are young can mold them into who they will become. For me, it was that Kindergartner teacher who asked me if I wanted to try Where the Sidewalk Ends. It led to a lifetime of loving literature in many forms.
Reading led to other creative avenues like art. Drawing became therapeutic outlet in a troubled childhood. Eventually I started writing in my teens. All of that enriched my life in so many ways. What matters most though is that I spent a good portion of my childhood either reading, drawing or doing something else worthwhile. My parents did not park me in front of a television for hours on end.
Which slowly brings me back to the question I wanted to ask all of you. Think of how you grew up. How did your sidewalk end? Now thing of your children or grandchildren. Are they parked in front of the television, computer or gaming console for all of their free time? If they are, and they continue to do this, how do you think their sidewalk will end?
Now before anyone grabs their pitchfork and tries to burn me at the stake, I want to assure you of something. I one hundred percent believe children should be adept at technology. They should be competent on the computer and all its programs because we are a technology driven culture. One day, robots may very well rule the world. Because of that, I totally need my kids technologically savvy to save me from the robots.
That being said, I do not want technology to drown out the beauty in this world. I do not force my kids to do the things they do not enjoy doing, but I do encourage them to try all the different avenues of art to engage them. Sometimes they are reluctant, and other times they end up enjoying whatever it is I have pushed in their direction. Reading, writing, art, music, nature, etc.
Children these days not only ca not change their own tire, but they struggle to balance their budgets as young adults and most lack the survival skills if the worst would fall upon them. It is our job, as parents, to prepare them for the real world in all its forms. Obviously, they probably will not master all of the skills to become a doomsday prepper with a master’s degree in English, however they can be more efficient human beings that know how to take care of themselves.
I firmly believe the teachers in our school system do the best they can do to try and engage our children in these important life skills, but it is up to parents to make sure these important lessons carry through at home as well.
And before those who would nay say me say that I am being high handed, just know that I am a mother of teenagers. I have been through the tough times. I have literally cried over spilled milk, toddler temper tantrums in the middle of a store and unpaid bills piled on my desk.
I am just one parent, reaching out to all the other parents and grandparents out there to say: think about how a child’s sidewalk might end with the road you have started them on. We must teach our children to walk, run, not trip over their own feet, or those dreaded cracks in the sidewalk, so that they can fly free as adults in confidence. It is up to us to make them well-rounded human beings.
Until next time my friends,