Thursday was reading night.

In our home, when I was growing up, Thursday night was reading night. This was never, ever announced or even mentioned. It was never enforced. None of us kids were even aware of it. However, it was intentional, consistent and disciplined. My mom told me about it when I was in college.

My folks wanted to make sure that all four of us kids would enjoy reading and make it a part of our lives. They determined that the best way to do this was by providing opportunity and example. So they chose Thursday. On Thursdays, the television did not get turned on. Mom and Dad would sit in the family room and read. There were built in bookshelves on either side of the fireplace and they were filled with books. Of the approximately forty lineal feet of shelves, half were taken up with reference books: an encyclopedia, dictionaries, thesaurus, legislative manuals and almanacs. The other half were filled mainly with history and biographies, with maybe three feet of philosophical fiction and two feet of family photo albums. My brother and sisters and I each had our personal collections of books in bookcases in our bedrooms. 

On Thursdays, we could pretty much do what we wanted. There was a stereo, pool table and fireplace in the basement recreation room. There were games and books there, too. There was a table for puzzles and crafts in the family room. We could play organ in the living room. But we would find our folks quietly reading. I don’t remember being told that we couldn’t turn on the TV. They were reading in front of it. It just wouldn’t seem polite.

We all grew up to be readers.

Years ago, I heard a story on NPR about Iceland being a super-literate country. Thursday was family reading night. All broadcast television would go dark on Thursday evening. It was practically considered one’s civic duty to write at least one book in your lifetime. I haven’t been able to run down the source of this story or substantiate it. Perhaps the internet and cable have erased this distinction there, by now. I did think it was curious that they also chose Thursday. We know a man whose full name is Samuel Shakir Kamees Massad, which translates from the Arabic as: “asked of God to be thankful for Thursday.” To that I say Yes I am!

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