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Communication is key to curbing teen violence

A few years back, I was waiting for a bus downtown when a loud commotion started on my left. Looking over, I saw at least 20 little sparrows flying around and making a ruckus.

Below them was a sea gull, in the process of attacking a lone sparrow. First the sea gull disabled the sparrow's right wing, then the left and finally its neck. The whole time, all the rest of the little birds did nothing but screech in outrage, circling the scene. In the end, the sea gull took off, unmolested.

Is this how our teenagers in the city act? Over the last few months, the video footage on violence in our schools looks remarkably similar.

I was a violent and troublesome teen at one time. It got so bad that the principal knew my parents' phone number by heart. Since the yelling and the beatings I got from my parents just seemed to make things worse, they tried grounding me.

Back then there were only about five TV channels, no one even knew the word Internet and a PC ran about the same price as a small house, so there really was not a lot for me to do around the house.

One day, my mom got fed up with my sulking and said four words that changed my whole outlook on life: "Read a book, already."

I know it seems trivial, since I could read, but there is a difference between just reading and truly understanding what you read. After that day, it seemed that my mind opened up to new ideas and my imagination ran wild. And instead of spending my allowance on beer and such, the bookstores at the Thruway Mall got my business.

What happened is that my parents got involved. They would read the same books that I had, and then we would discuss the stories, almost like an in-house book club.

My father was not a very educated man. He was a blue-color worker for most of his life, and got his GED while in the Army. He rarely, if ever, read anything except the daily newspaper. But after a few discussions over the dinner table about a particularly good novel, he got involved.

Then it was off to the races. Nearly every night, instead of watching TV, we would all be gathered in the front room, faces buried in a paperback.

I believe that is what is lacking today. Ignorance breeds violence, while communication between the generations breeds respect for one another.

Now one of my favorite things to do is not to watch TV or play video games, but to go into a local bookstore, preferably a used bookstore, and just stop and breathe the air. The smell of the books to me is almost intoxicating, the thought of all that history in one small room just amazes me.

Wandering around the store, I sometimes just put one finger on a binding or open the book and feel the paper in my hand.

Maybe what is needed in the city is for the parents of these troubled teens to go to a store or the library, get two books of the same type, sit with their children and read.

Otherwise it seems that they are just sparrows, waiting for the sea gull to strike and then complaining, moaning and whining about the loss of a child, one way or another.

John F. Lodyga, of Hamburg, wishes more parents would play an active role in their children's lives.

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