No doubt about it - we are in the midst of a reading crisis! Daily headlines remind us of our obsessive anxiety over reading scores and assessments. In all these alarming messages, one word is nowhere to be seen: LOVE! There! I've said it!

No doubt about it - we are in the midst of a reading crisis! Daily headlines remind us of our obsessive anxiety over reading scores and assessments. In all these alarming messages, one word is nowhere to be seen: LOVE! There! I've said it! With all the pressure on our kids to score acceptably on standardized reading exams, the questions that long to be asked are, "Now that our children have learned to decode the language and perform higher on tests, will they become READERS? Will they fall in LOVE with books and WANT to read?"

Some years ago, I was preparing for a presentation to the Reading Association and asked my late husband, "Howie, do you remember any books from your childhood that you absolutely loved?"

He didn't hesitate for a moment but answered immediately, "Tuffy Bean! I loved that book!" Here was a man remembering with clarity the little book he read so many decades ago. We could find no trace of Tuffy Bean at that time. My husband was truly disappointed. He wanted to show me the book and share in that precious memory.

Our oldest son, Cliff, loved the almanac. He knew that every birthday one of his favorite all-time gifts would be that year's almanac. Keeping that tradition, a birthday package was mailed to him for his last birthday, his 54th. Of course it contained the almanac!

I recently presented a program to the fabulous volunteers at our award-winning Columbus Metropolitan Library. Our libraries are doing an outstanding job luring our children into the magical, exciting, enchanting world of BOOKS! I asked the volunteers to think back to books they LOVED growing up, book that became part of their lives. I shared my absolutely love of Jo March in Little Women, of Francie Nolan in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Many of the volunteers enthusiastically named books they love and loved. We need to remember what reading is about - information, imagination, delight, adventure, empathy, discovery, memory … it's about LOVE.

DRAW AND ENTER TO WIN

The TWIG organization at Nationwide Children's Hospital is again on the hunt for children's artwork to feature in its holiday card collection!

From now through Sept. 12, any child 16 and younger can enter an original holiday-themed drawing or painting by mailing it to: Nationwide Children's Hospital Foundation, Attn: TWIG Holiday Card Contest, P.O. Box 16810, Columbus, OH 43216-6810.

Along with the artwork, include a statement with: name of artist, age of artist, name of parent/guardian, mailing address, phone number, email address, and if the child has been a patient of Nationwide Children's Hospital. If so, feel free to briefly share your family's story (but you don't have to, and it's not necessary for the artist to have been a patient in order to enter).

Two winning entries will be selected and notified by Sept. 16, and all non-winning entries can be picked up at the hospital after that date. The winning entries will be reproduced and available for sale beginning Oct. 1 at nationwidechildrens.org/TWIG. All proceeds benefit the hospital.

Columbus arts educator, author and all-around inspiration Mimi Brodsky Chenfeld shares her wisdom about raising happy, healthy, creative children.