Thursday, May 16, 2024


 By Catherine Ulrich Brakefield

As far back as Adam and Eve, communication was the essential nucleus that spurred relationships. Historians found numerals and words written on tablets of stone around 3200 BCE. The most renowned was in Moses’ era with the Ten Commandments written by the finger of God on stone tablets.

         Our early ancestors never took reading for granted. The ability to read plays an important role in one’s career options. Additional knowledge and skills affect how well a person can read and comprehend the written word. Some became doctors and lawyers. Others, merchants, and shipbuilders. During the 1600s many colonial settlers could only make an X for their name.

The gateway to becoming literate was destined to change.  Not only the rich and affluent but the poor and uneducated would have the opportunity to be, with diligence and hard work, whatever profession they chose—due to Divine Intervention.

The United States of America constitution declares: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Upon the climax of the Revolutionary War in 1777, a rag-tag bunch of farmers humbled the most powerful army on the continent. As told in Images of America, Eastern Lapeer Area, “The Treaty of Paris in 1783 formally ended the Revolutionary War for the 13 colonies and extended American boundaries from the Atlantic coast to the Mississippi River and from the Great Lakes to the 31st parallel in the south, thus opening the Northwest Territory. The Northwest Territory gave soldiers and settlers a chance to become landowners.”

 Americans saw this as their chance to better themselves. To be landowners and not bondservants to land barons. Off they trekked into the unknown wildernesses of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, parts of Pennsylvania, and Michigan.

The soldiers who’d been granted land in Michigan for the wages they earned fighting the British, traveled through the wilderness with their families and possessions. They tromped through marshlands, swamps and forests. They endured frigid winters, and mosquito-infested summers, the great winds and even greater rains, as spoken of in Eastern Lapeer County,  as Mary Ann Ingalls Bristol records in her memoirs: outside the city of Detroit, water flooded the road for three miles, nearly up to the lumber box on our wagon.  

One of the first things Michigan settlers did was build a log cabin. Parents who could read taught their children how to read and write. Bibles and books were priceless commodities to households. Chalkboards were used over paper, because paper was often too expensive for the average family to buy when the common staples of life were needed more.

The circuit rider braved unimaginable hardships to bring the bright hope of the Bible and the Good News message to the wilderness and to the Ottawa, Chippawa, and Nepessing Indians. A church was built, and this became the settler’s community support group.

As told in Images of America, The Lapeer Area, “Traveling was done by the aid of marked trees because there were no roads cut out at that time.” If a family didn’t appear on a Sunday morning, someone would trek out to their homestead to check in on them.

These early settlers brought their zeal for Christianity. Schools were built so children could learn how to read the Bible: “To train a child to read and interpret the word of God” (Images of America, The Lapeer Area). Native Americans learned to read and play instruments!

Maintenance for these one-room schoolhouses fell to the families. One family member would be designated to bring the wood for the stove. Most schoolhouses had either wells or windmills. One remote schoolhouse had neither, so a designated student brought a pail of water for drinking purposes.  “If that student forgot, everyone went without water that day” (The Lapeer Area).

A schoolhouse often included first-grade through eighth graders—and sometimes adults who wanted to learn how to read. On occasion, the older children were excused to help their parents with new babies, farm chores, or planting. The time spent in the classroom held untold value for these bright young adults.

From these teens, sprung the next citizens, parents, doctors, nurses, politicians, and presidents. Education wasn’t taken for granted. The family nucleus was unwavering in their Christian values and strong work habits.

         Reading is the basic tool for education and an important skill for everyday life. Scientists have learned that without the stimulus of words to the mind there is a loss of brain matter. In earlier centuries, reading became the selective pastime for pleasure.

         Before radio and television, families entertained themselves through storytelling, music, and reading. The skill of reading a sonnet was a sought-after talent. A voice that could capture the music of words bouncing across a black-and-white page, putting color into one’s imagination, became a work of art all their own.

Check out the movies All Mine to Give, Gone with the Wind, Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice. I say movies because in this twenty-first century, more people have seen the movies than have read Dale Eunson and Katherine (Albert) Eunson’s, Margaret Mitchell’s or Jane Austin’s classic novels. I can personally confirm that the novels are far superior to the movies.

Research supports the presumption that reading enhances the thought process and is a potent form of brain training. Not to mention that one study by Dr. Alan Castel, a doctor who studies dementia patients, has found those who read the most had the fewest physical signs of dementia.

Dr. Castel, in Psychology Today, continues to say that reading is a form of mental gymnastics for the brain. Vivid imagery, following a plot, or main idea, enhances the memory and influences the thought process.

Professor Keith Oatley, who is an expert in the field of reading, likes to compare reading to being in a flight simulator, because, “You experience a lot of situations in a short span of time, far more so than if we went about our lives waiting for those experiences to actually happen to us.”

Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss, wrote, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

The proof is displayed by the great exploits of our early Americans. Scientists have proven that early reading skills may mean higher intelligence later in life. And the best way to help your child or grandchild is by example.

Pick up a book, read it, and notice your child’s interest and questions.   Reading is a boost to your brain power! It’s just like going for a jog. Reading regularly improves brain function, and slows the process of decline in memory loss by keeping your mind sharper. As the published research in Neurology states: A lifetime of reading can benefit social intelligence and can often get better with age.

Specifically, literary fiction has the power to help its reader understand people’s emotions and what others might be thinking. This is according to research published in Science Magazine. This impact is substantially recognized by those who read literary fiction as to those who read nonfiction. “Understanding others’ mental states is a crucial skill that enables the complex social relationships that characterize human societies.” David Comer Kidd and Emanuele Castano wrote these findings.

         Sadly, one in seven Americans can’t read this: “The U.S. Illiteracy Rate Hasn’t Changed in Ten Years!” According to a study by the U.S. Department of Education, thirty-two million adults in the U.S. can’t read.

         According to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy (completed most recently in 2003, and before that in 1992), 14 percent of adult Americans demonstrated a “below basic literacy level in 2003 and 29 percent exhibited a “basic” reading level.

         When God wrote on that stone tablet the Ten Commandments—henceforth the written word became vital to mankind—for our very existence.

Watch for next month’s blog and learn how the written word provides food to our intellect and creates an ever-widening world of health and well-being for the reader.


CHRISTIANITY—ROMANCE—PATRIOTISM in a sweeping saga of true-to-life adventures.

Swept into Destiny, Destiny’s Whirlwind, Destiny of Heart, Waltz with Destiny.

Get whisked into the lives of the McConnell women. Follow these strong women from the days of the Civil War through the epic battle with Hitler. "The message of the Destiny series is even more applicable today than when it first released. Praying for America’s repentance and to embrace God like never before." Debra B.

Wilted Dandelions: Rachael agrees to a marriage of convenience with a man she hardly knows and learns God doesn’t create coincidences—He designs possibilities. “…one gripping, compelling read. Wilted Dandelions by Ms. Brakefield had me eagerly turning pages and sighing over the love story premise as well as taking comfort in the spiritual message…” ES Amazon Reader

Catherine is an award-winning author of the inspirational historical romance Wilted Dandelions, and Destiny Series, Swept into Destiny, Destiny’s Whirlwind, Destiny of Heart and Waltz with Destiny Her newest book, is the inspirational Amish futuristic romance, Love's Final Sunrise.  Her history books are; Images of America; The Lapeer Area, and Images of America: Eastern Lapeer County.


Images of America The Lapeer Area by Catherine Ulrich Brakefield. Arcadia Publishing, Charleston, SC. Copyright 2006

Images of America Eastern Lapeer County by Catherine Ulrich Brakefield. Arcadia Publishing, Charleston, SC. Copyright 2014

The Children’s Bible, Golden Press, New York Western Publishing Co. Inc. Racine, Wisconsin copyright 1965

World Book Encyclopedia, Vol. 15. Field Enterprise Educational Corp., Chicago, Ill. Copyright 1961



  1. Thank you for posting today. I was appalled to read the statistic that one in seven Americans can't read! Even given learning disabilities, that number is too high!

    1. Connie, I know. When you realize that most people, including school age children, just read their I-Phones, and watch telvision, the statistics all makes sense. So sad. And our cognitive reading and writing skills suffer from this.