The American author Clarence Day (1874-1935) once said of books, “A book is the most remarkable creation of man; nothing else that he builds ever lasts … monuments fall … civilizations grow old and die out … but in the world of books are volumes that live on, still as young and fresh as the day they were written, still telling men’s hearts of the hearts of men centuries dead.”

What an awesome thought when you think about it, yet books are all of that and more. And believe it or not, today I have a novel idea that may be new to some people as to how books can be put to good use, where they may do the most good.

The idea is that a book can be a terrific toy in the hands of a very small child, even before the child begins to walk. As you think about that, please allow me to tell you from where this idea came. At this time I am waiting on the final proof for a new book that I have written titled, “My Heartfelt Passion – Saving Our Nation One Child at a Time.” My publisher is Strategic Book Publishing and Rights Co., LLC USA/Singapore, and the director of acquisitions is a man by the name of Tom Wallace.

When Tom learned that my book was all about improving literacy in our nation, it hit his hot button. For years Tom was a teacher of preschool children and beyond, ranging from 1 to 7 years of age. Here is what he said in an e-mail to me following our first telephone conversation: “If you want the answer, by the way, you have to incentivize the parent (s) at about 6 months to let kids even play with a book as a toy … read to him/her regularly, no matter how short the time. Book habits can be developed early and the longer you wait, the less likely the habit will take.”

Thanks, Tom. Since your e-mail came to me, I have given your idea a great deal of thought and believe you are so right, especially in these days when electronic gadgets begin to vie for our children’s attention when they are still in diapers. Even here in our community, as we give 4-year old children in our Head Start program a personalized bookcase and a starter set of books, it may already be too late in some cases. The idea is simply the “sooner the better” as babies begin to identify sights and sounds that are around them. In fact, I know a young couple here in my community who read to their baby while he was still in the womb. If a child develops a love for books and learns to read early in life, they will have a much brighter future.

To be sure, most of you who are reading this column will not have 6-month-old babies, or even very young children, but there will be many of you who have children or grandchildren and do have this opportunity to really make a difference in a child’s life. Again, I had never thought about this until I heard from Tom, but I do believe it has merit. All I am asking you to do is help to spread the word to those who do have young children. For sure, there can and should be a new kind of toy under the Christmas tree or when you blow out the birthday candles. Again, the idea is the “sooner the better” when we can expose our children to the wonderful world of books.

As I bring these thoughts to a close, I want to also point out the importance of the kind and quality of reading material you buy for your children. Just make sure it is wholesome and teaches the concepts and values that will produce a child, teenager and an adult who will be a credit to you, your good name and one we can all be proud to have as a good neighbor.