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On the Children's Shelf: The power of words

Words are powerful. They are a way to communicate, to share, to express, to request. When toddlers point at a desired item, they often hear “use your words.” They learn from an early age that words give them power to express what they want and need.

I read something recently that suggested that children who are read to may associate books and words with feelings of love. They hear loved ones read to them. They see the books that are being read. Words and books are tied to feelings of connection to others, which may be why our favorite children’s books hold such strong feelings.

Growing up, I don’t remember anyone telling me words were powerful, but it was something I just understood. Perhaps from so much reading and listening to books being read to me, I knew words could make a difference because I got so much out of the books I read. I turned to words to visit beloved characters, but I also turned to my own words.

I wrote stories. I kept journals. I wrote letters. I wrote notes. I wrote down powerful words from books so I would remember them. I liked big words. I liked words that sounded funny. I became interested in all ways of communicating. I remember desperately wanting to learn braille and my mom finding a place in California where she was able to get me instructions to learn.

So when I was unhappy about something, I realized I could write and express my thoughts. I wrote to Lego as a child. I wanted to see more playsets in addition to the space ones that were popular at the time. I offered them ideas in exchange for legos. They didn’t take me up on the offer, but it didn’t deter me. When I used my own money to buy a bag of chips to share with a friend and found they didn’t have the seasoning on them they were supposed to, I wasn’t going to settle. So at 11, I wrote to the company and expressed my disappointment, and they listened. They actually wrote back and apologized and gave me a coupon for a new bag of chips (and that one was properly seasoned).

While unseasoned chips aren’t exactly the end of the world, it was a big deal to me, and being heard and receiving a response showed me that my words had power. I love words. I love that the words that I use in ordinary conversation are the same ones I find inside incredible books strung together telling magical stories. They are powerful. The same words I use every day can be used to impact others, to express feelings, to make change...words are powerful.

So now I invite you to share great words with me. What books changed your life? What books took words and made a difference?

Photo by Jessica Collins

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