Some people claim that the undead are incapable of learning anything new, because their brains are rotten. This, in my opinion, is a very pulsist way of thinking. It’s not as though a brain rotted through disuse is an undead-specific trait. And the cure for this condition is the same for both breathers and shamblers alike. Read.
Reading is the single most important thing you can do with your child. You may think that buying that expensive learning toy or that educational software will make your child smarter or more successful, but compared to sitting down and reading a book together, you may as well be tossing him a severed foot. Trust me on this.
Reading expands the mind. Not in a bad way, like a sledgehammer. More like a stretching exercise for the brain cells. It’s a way for different people to know and understand each other. It’s a way to introduce children to ideas that they could never discover by simply staggering around, slack-jawed and ravenous, trying to eat everything that’s not nailed down. And that also goes for the life-challenged child.
My own little shamblers can read pretty well (when they’re not playing Got Your Eye with each other) but I still read to them whenever I can get them to sit still. Some parents don’t allow comics or graphic novels, saying that the violence is bad for them. I say horserot. I’ll read anything that catches their interest. I even read zombie apocalypse stories, though some of the deaths are pretty violent. But I figure that it’s good to be ambitious about the future, and reading about zombies being shot, blown up, and dismembered will help them prepare.
Reading is a way for complete strangers to get to know each other. Take this post, for example. If you and I were standing face to face, we would not be engaging in this bit of dialogue. I would likely be trying to eat your face, and you would be trying to blow me away. All that aside, my verbal skills haven’t been the same since the time the cat got my tongue. Reading and writing are a way around communication barriers.
Most importantly of all, reading engages the imagination in a way that no purely visual medium ever could. A movie or TV show tells you, “This is what it looks like. This is how things are.” A book says, “This is what it could look like. This is how it might be.” A breather might read a zombie apocalypse story and come away from it dreaming of hope and survival and the tenacity of the human spirit. A shambler might read the same book and come away from it dreaming of gourmet meals and the tastiness of the human body. Any reaction is the right reaction, because there are no wrong answers at the end of a book.
Some folks claim that they don’t like to read, or they don’t have time. What they mean is that their brains are out of practice and they’re afraid of the effort it would take to get back into shape. Exercise hurts, especially when you haven’t done it in a while. So start small. Graphic novels. Comics. Trashy young-adult brain candy. It might hurt a little, just like the gym hurts the first few times you go. But keep at it. Work your brain. Clear the rot away. You’ll be happier, you’ll be healthier, and you may even live longer because of something you read.