If you are the parent or grandparent of very young children, I have some thoughts to share in this column that may be the most important thing you have ever heard with reference to the future success of your child or children.

A few weeks ago, we had the Honorable Chris Carnahan, District Court Judge in the Arkansas First Division, speak to our local Kiwanis Club. He talked about a number of things, but mainly the types of cases that came before him. The acoustics were bad, and I didn’t catch everything, but most of the cases involved drugs and alcohol. On a side note, it’s sad that our courts across the country are clogged up with these types of cases. As one who has never used drugs or drank alcohol, it is hard to understand why people get addicted to these harmful substances.

A couple of weeks before I heard the judge speak, he came to the Lions Club, where I am an associate member. At that time, I promised him a copy of my book but never found the time to take it by his office, so I brought it to our Kiwanis meeting. As we were visiting after the meeting, he asked if I was still involved in the Bookcase for Every Child project. I told him that due to my age, I had turned it over to our Kiwanis Club and that Richard Plotkin was now the chairman. He went on to say that reading was the key to success.

I commented that he probably saw the results of poor reading skills from the bench every day in his work. He looked me straight in the eye and said, “I see it every single day.”And for me, this is when he nailed it. If you will think about the ramifications of his comment, you will see it, too. We have young men and women who get in trouble with the law due to a number of reasons, and how it sometime can be related to a lack of good reading skills. The judge added that there is a 2 year old in his family, and they read to this child every single night.

Now, if you are in this position, or have family or friends who are, I would like to share a few thoughts that could make a real difference in the lives of one or more children. My first thought is for you or another family member to make a commitment to read to the children in your family. You need to have a time and a place, a reading nook, where this takes place and do not let other, less important, things interfere with it. Next, be very selective in the kind of reading material you choose. As I have said before, the minds of young children are just like sponges, and they will soak up far more than we will ever know.

At this point you can begin to build a reading library. Be careful not to select content that has no real value, and certainly nothing that is trivial or demeaning. If you do not have the resources to buy the books, go to your public library and check them out. A portion of your tax dollars goes for this purpose. If you need help in selecting the right books, talk with teachers in your schools. Most will be happy to help you.

And best wishes in rearing a bright, happy and highly literate child.

(Jim Davidson is an author, public speaker, syndicated columnist, and Founder of the Bookcase for Every Child project. Since its inception in the Log Cabin Democrat in 1995, Jim’s column has been self-syndicated in over 375 newspapers in 35 states. For a personalized copy of “Your Future Begins Today” send $20, which includes postage and handling, to Jim Davidson, 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034.)