Reading, Life's Silver Bullet

Mom and daughter reading

As you know, this month is National Reading Month. We’ve been doing a lot to celebrate, including giveaways, contests, and lots of reading. But today, in honor of reading, I’m pulling out all the stops to share with you what I think is a priceless lesson.

I think many of us, if not all of us, have a tendency now and then to think we’ll find a “silver bullet” to solve our problems. The idea of a “silver bullet” traces to a fictional, magical bullet made of silver that can kill werewolves. It also is the bullet of choice for the Lone Ranger, representing justice.

Today, when we refer to a silver bullet, we tend to be looking for “a simple and seemingly magical solution to a complicated problem.” For example, how many ads have you seen that offer you a way to get wealthy overnight with one simple investment trick? Or to lose all the weight you want without any effort just by eating one special food. Whiter teeth. Perfect marriages. Purple unicorns. The world, and especially the internet, often seems full of juicy, clickbait silver bullets.

As we have all wisely been instructed, though, there usually is no silver bullet. Most of the time, our problems and challenges can’t be solved in 5 minutes with peanut butter or by applying hydrogen peroxide (but don’t tell your grandma :). Improvement in life often takes consistent, disciplined effort, and it’s not always (ever?) easy or fast. Rome wasn’t built in a day. And children aren’t potty-trained in one day either.

However, because it’s National Reading Month, I want to let you in on a very important secret: to the extent there are any silver bullets in life, I think reading may very well be one of them.

Dad story time

I was once asked this question: “If you could only teach one thing to your child, what would it be?” After pondering the question, I decided that the one thing may very well be to learn to love reading. Why? Because if I was no longer around to teach them anything else, I could count on them still learning the important things they need to learn by reading good books. Deep questions, like where to find truth, what their purpose in life is, and how to be a better mother, father, brother, sister, parent, child; as well as simpler questions, like why you should never give a mouse a cookie and why you should always be willing to try new foods like green eggs and ham.

We’ve written many times about the benefits of reading. We’ve also shared specific examples of how very successful people attribute a key part of their to success to reading (see examples here and here).

So one last thought before I finish up today: if reading really is one of life’s few magical silver bullets, how much effort are you giving to help your child, grandchild, niece, nephew, or other loved one gain a love for reading? How does the amount of money we spend each month on streaming services and data packages compare to what we spend on books? How does the amount of time we spend on each activity compare? I’m not out to advocate throwing out the TV set–though I do love the Oompa Loompa’s suggestion–but I am encouraging all of us to reconsider how we can give more time to reading, especially as we celebrate National Reading Month. I mean, if I told you how just one thing could make your child smarter, wealthier, and more confident, would you do it? Well, maybe I just did.

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