As my husband and I began our journey home from a weekend of rest and relaxation, it was apparent to me that this ride home would be the inspiration for my next column.


Traveling along the busy interstate, a river of thanksgiving welled inside my heart as I soaked in the warmth of the majestic sunshine while witnessing the trees seemingly lift up a wave offering to God. My eyes could hardly believe the miracle set before me – the perfect shade of blue in the sky scattered with varying poofs of white marshmallow-like sculptures. I marveled at God’s creations, which could only be expressed because of my ability to read, comprehend, think, and write. In those moments I thought what would my life be like without the aesthetic vitality of reading?


I don’t even recall the very day I actually began to put letters together to form words. However, from that moment through today, I learned something that, for all intent and purposes, I can never unlearn. I began to read and thereby the process of becoming literate.


As human beings, we’ve been afforded an aptitude no other living creature has – the ability to transform language into a tangible artistic expression and compilation of words that can change the trajectory of one’s life like nothing else in this world. See, it is through reading that I discovered the existence of God, and I learned that I am fearfully and wonderfully made in his image. Through reading, I’ve learned to distinguish between precepts and concepts to effectually mold my own sense of self and morality.


If you are reading this column today, perhaps you, like me, don’t take for granted how reading has positively impacted your life. Let us pass this gift onto our children, grandchildren and other family and friends by making sure they, too, can read. One of the greatest gifts we can give is the love of reading and an encouragement of that which can empower ourselves and others to acquire knowledge through the process of literacy building.


They say a picture is worth a thousand words. However, that same picture could quite possibly be worth ten thousand words to the person who has learned to read through a continued influence of literacy thereby becoming a fluent craftsman of words.


One key societal determinant of a person’s successful matriculation through life lies in their ability to read. Roughly 60 percent of all prison inmates are functionally illiterate. The connection between criminal behavior and literacy is startling. In its simplicity, if we want a safer, more productive community that is capable of producing positive contributors to society and a well-educated workforce, we must increase the numbers of children and adults who can read.


Nov. 1 was National Family Literacy Day. During my “Education Matters” television broadcast episode No. 110, we discuss the importance of reading and families reading together. Reading together and even engaging in the process of auditory dialogue produces tremendous academic outcomes in children and strengthens the family bond. During the broadcast, practical tips are provided for parents to implement at home to instill a love of reading and literacy advancement, for the family that reads together succeeds together.


Furthermore, in episode No. 109, we explored a condition known as dyslexia, which is a neurobiological condition impacting a person’s ability to read. Many people who struggle with reading may have dyslexia and don’t even know it. Instead of embracing reading, they retreat from reading because it’s too cumbersome and a source of embarrassment. But with diagnosis, preferably early diagnosis and treatment, dyslexia does not have to become a barrier to one’s individual development.


If you are the parent of a child, read together or have your child read to you so you can monitor his/her progression and notice any reading deficiencies.


If you know of someone who cannot read, encourage the person to get help that is available in schools, adult education programs and other literacy assistance initiatives. As we approach the holiday season, let’s share the gift of reading. It’s the gift that truly keeps on giving.


For enlightenment on a variety of educational issues, please watch weekly “Education Matters” broadcasts on ASTV Channel 95 at 7 a.m., 1 p.m., 4 p.m. or 11 p.m., or via Internet archive on www.edmatt.com and listen to “Education Matters” WAAW Shout 94.7 FM, Wednesdays, 10 to 11 a.m. and Saturdays, 6 to 7 p.m.


Donna Moore Wesby is host of “Education Matters” radio and television broadcasts and is executive director of the Education Matters Nonprofit Corporation.