Blame the oatmeal for eroding reading skills

Burt's Eye View

Oatmeal is killing literacy.

That’s my theory based on extensive breakfast research conducted at my house.

I have reached that certain age when metabolism takes lots of naps and my body sounds like a Rice Krispies concert when I wake up. Snap, crackle, pop, groan.

No longer can I wolf down three cheeseburgers and a gallon of ice cream, and go play basketball for 12 hours straight.

These days, watching basketball for 12 minutes is about as long as I can manage without old man issues rerouting me to another room. My cupboards sag under the weight of foods with labels like “Whole Grains” and “Low Sodium” and “Added Fiber.” I’m one step away from Jell-O and prunes.

Breakfast, of course, is oatmeal. Oatmeal, oatmeal, oatmeal. Because that’s what’s healthy and right and sensible for people of a certain age. My age.

Which is why my reading skills eroded — no more cereal boxes.

Mornings used to begin with helping Tony the Tiger hack his way through a jungle maze, solving word clues to sail Cap’n Crunch past the trap set by that nefarious pirate Jean LaFoote, and hopping game board spaces to dig up Lucky Leprechaun’s hidden chest of gold. I’ve even found Waldo by many a dawning sun.

We soaked up the comics, trivia, games and puzzles on the backs of cereal boxes with an intensity our teachers only dreamed about. All of it was printed in glorious color.

I devoured every word over big bowls of sugar-frosted goodness drenched in whole milk that came straight from our barn. Back then, this was considered the height of healthiness. I read that on the fronts of the boxes: “Fortified with nine essential vitamins and minerals.”

Later, as a young father, a cereal box let me know the moment my daughter learned to read. It was when she swiped my Trix. She studied the box, then sounded out, “Silly rabbit.” I’ve never been so proud.

These days, my body rebels against a diet of Froot Loops, Alpha-Bits and Honey Smacks. I’ve reached that certain age — the oatmeal age. My readings skills have diminished ever since. My wife buys the oatmeal in bulk, in big, clear plastic bags. There’s only so many times you can read the words “net weight.”

I say it’s time to take back our literature. We people of a certain age must demand our own set of characters on the backs of bulk bags. We could have the adventures of La-Z-Boy Louis. Wheelie Walker Willie. Hey-You-Kids-Get-Off-My-Lawn Morton.

There could be games, like match the socks and find the reading glasses. And the oatmeal bags could come with free medical or nutritional dictionaries inside so we could finally find out what thiamin, riboflavin and niacin actually are.

We shouldn’t have to start our days by staring at blank walls while gumming our oatmeal just because we’ve reached a certain age. Our literary skills shouldn’t thin out like zero-fat, no-kick skim milk. We can be vibrant, productive readers at breakfast again.

After we slurp that last oat from the bottom of the bowl, we can smooth out the back of the bag, smile, and roar along with with Tony the Senior, “They’re gr-r-r-ray-haired gr-r-r-r-eat!”

— Discuss issues of a certain age with Cole at or on the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook.