Dr. Tony Iacono
I have always loved reading as long as I can remember. Growing up, our home was filled with a variety of books, magazines and newspapers. My parents were big readers. They liked contemporary biographies, any topic in history and, in the case of my dad, any book related to baseball. In addition to the shelves of books around the house, trips to the public library and my school library were regular events that I relished. In second grade, I discovered Roald Dahl and read every one of his books with tremendous enthusiasm. If memory serves, I even faked illness to skip school and finish Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It was a good choice. I have no memory of the school work I had to make-up but I do remember spending a really good day living vicariously through my hero Charlie Bucket. Somewhere around fourth grade, I discovered C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. Six books loaded with fantasy along with issues too complex for me to understand at the time. Lewis stirred my imagination for many years and gave me much to contemplate. Unlike my parents, I spent most of my time reading fiction but I also enjoyed biographies of presidents, inventors and explorers. I’m not sure my parents were always aware of what I was reading but they always indulged me when I asked for a quarter to buy a comic book or even a dollar for two paperback books that could be purchased at the annual school book sale. When quarantined to my bedroom with chicken-pox in the fourth grade, my dad cheered me up by bringing me a copy of Rolling Stone magazine. This “life changing” moment introduced me to modern American culture and writing more colorful than I had previously encountered in the stories of Roald Dahl and C.S. Lewis.
I didn’t know it at the time but my love for reading was helping me develop a strong vocabulary, introducing me to complex and intriguing ideas, and allowing me to meet extraordinary people and creatures scattered across continents over eons of time. Granted, some of these beings never existed; yet I still counted them as my most adventurous friends. In sixth grade, my teacher Mr. Shirer introduced me to local color through the writings of Mark Twain and, in a less definitive way, Theodore Taylor. I loved the hours he spent reading to his students and the way he brought Huck, Tom, Timothy and Philip to life. New characters to meet, new places to travel, and new words and pronunciations to master. My seventh grade year afforded me the opportunity to enroll in a humanities literature course taught by Mrs. Morganroth. The standout book that year was S. E. Hinton’s The Outsiders. High school exposed me to Emily Dickinson, Edgar Allan Poe, Walt Whitman, Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. All were lost on me at the time. I instead gravitated toward Stephen King, a writer my high school teachers apparently found unworthy of attention. As a freshman in college, I took another humanities literature course over a summer semester. Through an exceptional professor, nineteenth century poets and writers who had previously escaped my attention came to life and have remained important to me ever since. It was also during this remarkable summer course that I discovered one of my two favorite books, the Odyssey. This summer course also introduced me to the Age of Enlightenment and the Romantic Era; and thus I found the second of my two favorite fiction books, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Imagine the power and influence of one professor during a short and well spent summer semester. Remarkable.
The opportunity to have read many books and articles over a period that spans a little more than four decades is not rooted simply in the previously mentioned acquired skills or the overwhelming joy of reading itself, but also in the ability to continuously improve my understanding of people, diverse cultures, organizational systems and more by studying history, literature, math, science, the arts, technology, anthropology, psychology, economics and more. Today, I continue to read both fiction and nonfiction. I begin each day by reading several online newspapers and a number of articles related to education, diversity, global and local politics, business, and innovation. Since last summer, I have enjoyed and learned from numerous books including Edward O. Wilson’s Meaning of Human Existence; Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind; Bailey, Jaggers and Jenkins Redesigning America’s Community Colleges, James Donovan’s A Terrible Glory: Custer and the Battle of Little Big Horn The Last Great Battle of the American West, The Third Wave by Steve Case, Geoff Emerick’s Here, There and Everywhere, and am finishing Susan Butler’s Roosevelt and Stalin: Portrait of a Partnership. In between, I snuck in a few fiction reads including One-Hit Willie by Daily Record columnist William Westhoven, Mitch Album’s The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto, and the William P. Young’s The Shack. Spring is here and for me that means Hemingway while summer almost always includes a reading of the Odyssey, a book so rich that I always discover something new. I still have a great library in my life and so do you. Just visit the amazing staff in the Sherman H. Masten Learning Resource Center. If they don’t have something you want, then ask them. They can probably find a copy for you. I’ll be visiting soon to request Agustin Fuentes’ new book The Creative Spark: How Imagination Made Humans Exceptional.
I hope you’re considering enrolling in classes this summer and I hope that at least one will have as deep an impact on your life as my freshman literature course continues to have on mine. More so, however, if reading is not a big part of your life, I encourage you to develop this habit until it becomes a passion. The benefits are overwhelming both personally and professionally. By the way, thanks for reading the Youngtown. I love this paper and am continuously impressed with the faculty and students who have made it a tremendous success and an indispensable resource at CCM. Congratulations to the Youngtown staff for winning numerous journalism awards recently. I am hardly surprised but deeply proud of them. To learn more about the energetic and impressive team that produces the Youngtown, checkout my interview with them at: https://youtu.be/Y8nVP660LZ8 and while you’re at it follow me on Twitter @CCMProud and share what you’re reading. I’m always looking for something new!