Spencer Christian is an American television broadcaster, best known as the weather forecaster for ABC's Good Morning America from 1986 to 1998. He currently is a weather forecaster in San Francisco and author of a series of children's books. Education and literacy are among Spencer's passionate concerns.
Here Spencer answers our question of the year: What would you miss most if you could not read or write?
We asked Spencer a few questions about his personal journey as a reader and the importance of literacy education. He shares his views with us:
Q: You have said that reading had a huge impact on you as a child. Can you share some of your earliest memories around reading and how they impacted you?
A: My parents began reading children’s books to me when I was an infant, and they were particularly fond of the books by British author Beatrix Potter. Some of my very earliest memories in life are of my parents’ reading “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” to me. I can recall the vivid images painted by the words in the stories. It was almost as if I could “see” the stories unfolding in front of me, as my parents were reading. That is how my fascination with books and reading began. I couldn’t wait to begin reading on my own, and I was doing just that by the time I was 4 years old.
Q: How has what you've read influenced you professionally?
A: Having been an avid reader as a young child, I developed a great appreciation for creative expression. This has enabled me as a professional journalist to find uncommon ways of saying that which is common. I have always felt that people will listen to what you have to say, or read what you have written, if you use just the right words to get their attention and spark their imagination. The ability to do that is born out of the joys of reading.
Q: What advice would you give to young people who struggle as readers?
A: For young people who struggle with reading, I would suggest trying to read about things that you like, things that excite you. If you have a passion for music, pick up a popular magazine that features your favorite song or artist. If your love is sports, read Sports Illustrated. If you like fantasy, read comic books featuring super heroes. If you begin reading about those things that you love, you will soon find yourself developing a greater curiosity about other topics, and you’ll find yourself improving dramatically as a reader.
Q: It is said that stories and poems teach values. Is there one value in particular that has inspired your life and your good work that might connect back to a book that was either read to you or that you read on your own?
A: I would cite a book and a poem. The book is “Huckleberry Finn”, which teaches powerful lessons about basic human dignity through the relationship between Huck and Jim, the runaway slave. The poem is “If”, by Rudyard Kipling. For me, this poem is a complete guide for living a meaningful and purposeful life. One line from “If” which has remained with me since I first read it in the 8th grade is, “If you can talk to crowds and keep your virtue, or walk with kings – nor lose the common touch...” This one, simple line has always reminded me to treat others the way I want to be treated, and not to develop an inflated sense of self-worth.