Mercer Island Reporter


How the ‘Inch’ stole reading

By DAVID HOFFMAN Mercer Island Reporter Contributor
December 6, 2012 · 4:49 PM

Every child in Island-ville liked reading a lot ...

Except for the Inch who disliked all food for thought

He didn’t read novels or great poems or plays

Not one single word or sentence or phrase

“I’m the world’s worst reader,” he’d proudly exclaim,

So his brain shrunk an inch, and he earned his short name

Some say he avoided reading ’cause he didn’t know how

This suggestion causes one to raise an eyebrow.

For the Inch was a level four reader, a star comprehender,

As a youngster, he was a library’s best friender

He had read Tolstoy at two, Orwell at one

At age three he re-read all of Shakespeare for fun

His report card had noted, “Literacy skills are secured.”

It was simply a cinch for the Inch to read every word.

So, for whatever the reason and despite his good breeding

The Inch became Pres of the Club, Anti-Reading

His own private guild had just one slogan to it:

“If you need to read—then by all means—DON’T DO IT!”

He watched as the young ones read books by the dozen

He tried to think of a way to stop them, but his small brain wasn’t buzzin’.

“How can I rid the world of this insidious habit?

If I could dream up a scheme, then I’d wake up and grab it.”

Then, one frosty December while watching TV,

The Inch met the Grinch and jumped up in glee

The Doctor Seuss classic of one Looney Tuner

Inspired a plan that was simply quite lunar

(Had the Inch read the book, the plan would have arrived sooner)

So that holiday season, while children slept soundly

The Inch hatched his plan, and he did it profoundly

He loaded his wagon with bags filled with trouble

Crept into the darkness and worked on the double

He went down the chimneys and quietly took

Each magazine, journal, newspaper and book

(even e-readers, Kindles, iPads and Nooks)

Quickly and stealthily, he dodged and zig-zagged

He gleefully laughed while he book-napped and bagged

“Goodbye Hardy Boys and other dear friends

Sorry, but this is Where [Your] Sidewalk Ends

Adios Charlotte’s Web, I always did dread you

I haven’t all night, so I must now de-thread you.”

(At one house, the Inch pinched something much worse

He nabbed a copy of Lily’s Purple Plastic Purse!)

Soon most of the books were a thing of the past

And to guarantee that his grand plan would last

The Inch left each child a spellbinding gift

As an unspoken token of his evil lift

Then, just before morn, on a clear X-mas day

The Inch took his last book and went on his way

He headed toward home with books he would bury

Believing his thieving would make his life merry

Meanwhile the children awoke with great glee

Wondering which books lay under their tree

Some wanted Pooh, a book for the ages

All couldn’t wait to start turning new pages

But instead of fine books, they found computerized toys

With names like Wii, X-Box and Nintendo Game Boys

Their thumbs started movin’, their eyes stopped their blinkin’

And soon, my dear reader, their minds stopped their thinkin’

With eyes fixed on screens instead of great print

Their imaginations soon started to squint

In one week their brain cells decided to strike

The kids paid no heed as they sat Zombie-like

(By the first of the year, with all book reading shirked,

It appeared Inch’s plan had incredibly worked)

(How will this all end? Is there hope for our learners?

The suspense hooks one in like the best of page-turners

If you’re holding your breath, then it’s time to exhale

This poem’s not as grim as A Grimm’s fairy tale)

It began with an infant who found things unfunny

She cried and she cried for her book, Pat the Bunny

Which caused a small child, too young for electronics,

To scream, “Produce Dr. Seuss so I can practice my phonics.”

His sonic boom clamor for some Green Eggs and Ham-er

Opened up minds like a base clearing, grand slammer

Children awoke from their trances with inquisitive looks

They rose to their toes and began looking for books

They canvassed the streets in search of some tomes

They knocked on the doors of the library-less homes

Still empty-handed, at the end of their road

They came upon the Inch’s abode

With saddened expressions and eyes all a-blurr

They bravely asked if he owned liter-a-ture

Their desperate situation, caused the greatest of surprises

Just like the Grinch’s, the Inch’s heart grew three sizes

(But it wasn’t just his heart that needed some sparin’

It was his shrinker-of-a-thinker that needed repairin’)

Oh, what could he do to help the deprived?

The children now gone, once again he connived.

This time, however, kind actions were tempty

But when it came to ideas, his small mind stayed empty

So the Inch dug up the books he had hid on his site

And he read every one for an idea that was bright

He read A and Z authors, and those in between

Until he came upon one Shel Silverstein

There between The Giving Trees’ covers

The Inch realized the importance of helping out others

He read the Missing Piece and sat there astounded

He discovered a flawed person could still be well-rounded

And that’s when the Inch got his loud wake up call

That reading’s the greatest gift of them all

It’s the gift that we always can give to ourselves

And it’s always as close as the books on one’s shelves

Armed with new knowledge and empathy too

The Inch’s small brain awoke and then grew

It grew and it grew, like a tummy well fed

’Til it resembled a Mr. Potato-like head

Then, under the cover of night’s calming song

Inch packed up the lost goods and righted his wrong

He returned all the kids’ books along with some new ones

(He even remembered to deliver the Pooh ones)

And what happened then?

Well… in Island-ville they say

That the Inch never stopped reading

(He continues today)

And as for your Game Boy, X-Box, or Play Station?

Remember dear reader: it’s about moderation

For too much of anything can never succeed

Except kindness towards others and a good book to read

Happy Holidays!

David Hoffman is both principal and poet at Island Park Elementary.


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