I played hopscotch today. And it was marvelous.
The little guy wanted to play outside and after a roller coaster winter and early spring, it was gorgeous out. Did he want to bring anything with him? Toys, a ball? Nope. Armed simply with a box of chalk he wanted nothing more than to be out amid the sunshine and the grass of our backyard. And he wanted to be with me.
How could I say no?
He had been asking a lot about hopscotch lately. I’m not sure if he saw it in a cartoon or tv show, but thought this would be the perfect opportunity to show it to him and let him experience it himself. A few scratches of chalk on the sidewalk and our game board was set to go. I fished a small rock from a bucket of green waste headed to the curb and off we went on a crash course in hopscotch.
He didn’t care for it.
Well I shouldn’t say that. He was interested…until he had to jump on one foot. He had little care or desire and quickly walked off to the grass to look for sticks.
“You can play it, though,” he told me as he carried on with his own private adventure.
It could have ended there. I could have moved on. For some reason, though, I didn’t. Instead, I tossed the stone and off I went. One foot, the other, the first, two feet, etc, etc.
Maybe it’s because for several years I’ve lacked real exercise, but I loved it. I could have done it all day.
It wasn’t long, however, before I was wanted elsewhere and soon I had to leave hopscotch behind for a game of ‘chase the leprechaun,’ something Meg made up for him while outside enjoying some of the unseasonably warm weather around St. Patrick’s Day. He chased me around the yard as I shouted in a little Irish accent and got myself so exhausted, I admit needing to take a few rests upon the grass before we picked things up again. Hey, at least I got some sort of exercise in.
That whole afternoon out there got me thinking a bit. I feel like there are so many times in today’s world where we always feel the need to have something, to be entertained by something. But here we were armed with nothing more than some chalk and the sticks and flowers we found out in the yard along with our imaginations. And we had a blast.
There was a time, not too long ago, before tablets, smartphones, etc, when that’s how we did entertain ourselves. We went outside and what was there was what we came across and used to the best way we could.
There’s something almost…primal, reminiscent, rejuvenating about just running around, sitting in grass, looking at stocks and stones, and just skipping across a hopscotch board of chalk.
It felt good to get back to that. I should do it more often.
As adults, it’s rare that the mail brings us much of anything other than a handful of bills to be paid yet again this month. Maybe the occasional solicitation from the car dealership. But let’s face it, it’s usually bills.
Remember when we were kids, though, and something in the mail felt like Christmas time?
It was exciting! It was joyous! And once a month, our son gets that feeling, as a new book arrives in the mail, bringing a smile to his face and an “I can’t wait!” impatience to open it up, leaf through the pages and sit down with mommy and daddy and hear whatever this new tale is.
And you know who we have to thank for it? Dolly Parton. Yes. Dolly Parton. That Dolly Parton.
Because with her Imagination Library initiative, Dolly is making brand new books – some classics, some new hits – available to children everywhere whose parents sign them up.
I have no other way to describe it other than simply wonderful.
The first book we received (and I believe everyone who signs up receives) is the classic The Little Engine that Could. After that, once a month a book has shown up in our mailbox. Books that range from Ferdinand the Bull to Peanut Butter and Cupcake to the Gingerbread Man Loose on the Fire Truck.
Started in 1995, Dolly Parton launched the Imagination Library in her home county in East Tennessee as a way to encourage a love of reading in preschool children and families by providing them with a free, specially selected book each month. The hope was that mailing these books in the mail would get children excited about books and the magic within. What’s more, it was available to families and children regardless of the family income.
The initiative proved so popular that five years later, in 2000, it was announced that the program would be available with any community willing to partner with it and support it locally. Since then, according to the initiative’s website, the Imagination Library program has gone from delivering a few dozen books to more than 60 million books mailed to kids in the U.S., Canada, and United Kingdom.
What a truly wonderful thing.
Whether you want to take part in the program for your kid, or start one in your own community, the first thing to do is to head to the Dolly Parton Imagination Library website. From there, you can find if your community participates and whether you can sign up online or, as we had to, contact an organization in the community that acts as a mediary, receiving the books and then passing them along to you via the mail.
I can’t encourage the introduction of books to children enough or as early as possible. I’ve said time and time again how glad I am that we made it a point to start reading within the first few weeks of our son’s arrival, and some nights, even prior, reading to my wife’s pregnant belly. The same for our now five month old daughter.
Creating excitement about books, reading as a family, equating books with family, love, and fun fosters a curiosity, appreciation for and quest for knowledge that can carry through an entire lifetime.
Sign on up. You won’t regret it.
And thanks, Ms. Parton.