Sunday 15 June 2014

The Lost Art of Reading

The ironic part of this post is that the thrust of what I'm about to say most probably won't apply to you.  The simple fact you are looking at this means you obviously enjoy reading. 

Reading is an activity that most of us do, on a daily basis, without much thought.  We read the street signs going to and from work and school.  We read the daily news in print form, online or more likely, the headlines on television. 

Some of us are "Readers" and some of us are not.  What I mean to say is, only a relatively small percentage of the population read books for pleasure.  Is this a good thing?  You can argue either way, I suppose, but I know through my experience people  who read extensively are generally more knowledgeable and interesting to talk to.  Of course, that's a generalisation and I can hear you say from here that Uncle Freddy has never read a book in his life and he's interesting, the life of the party and knows everything about everybody and everything about everywhere.  True, but for all the Uncle Freddys' in this world, there are plenty of Nigel knows nothing.

Most of us start learning to read at school from early age.  We have to be able to read, if we want to learn from our text books and expand our knowledge and understanding of the world.  Very few enjoyed the experience though.  Reading can be tedious and boring for those who are have not developed the love for it by being exposed to their parent's bedtime stories.

Not long ago, I was in a senior high school classroom conducting a meet and greet session when I popped the question.  How many of you read books for pleasure?  Out of the class of 50, only two raised their hands.  Out of those two, only one read fiction novels.  You might be thinking to yourself, that's all very well, but these students are busy learning and spending time using their text books.  This is true up to a point but here is another example to ponder. 

In another senior class for English studies, the curriculum had designated only a single novel to be studied.  In the best class for that level, less than 50 percent bothered to read the book.  They relied on formulated answers for exam preparation to pass.  I would suspect this is not uncommon around the world.  Very few want to read for pleasure and even fewer want to read anything with substance. 

Is the art of reading dying?

Today's youth have access to television and computers.  To most, watching a movie is much more enjoyable than reading a story.

Movies are visual, of course and the information is fed to us by picture form and sound.  We can relax and let it wash over us in a manner that requires little energy or thought.  Books, on the other hand, require us to create an image inside our head through words that ignite our imagination.  It’s not passive information gathering; we have to work at it. 

The question to be asked then, ‘Is child development being hampered by not using reading as a tool for mental stimulation?’  This is not to say television or computers don’t hold an important place in the education development of the young, as they clearly do, but isn’t it like only having 4 senses to survive instead of 5?  We can be blind and still live, but we can’t see what the world really has to offer. 

Varied reading is like that.  It opens our minds up for us to see the many possibilities that exist.  It creates new worlds for us to explore; places and events that we may never be able to experience in real life but can dream about through the power of the written word.  Sadly, where I live, there is not a single book shop where I can go and buy a novel.  It's an ever increasing reflection on the dominance of other forms of media.  I'll leave you with this thought.

There is a tendency for authorities  around the world to attempt to control the content of electronic and printed media.  It is relatively easy to do.  By owning the TV stations and the press, you can feed the populous, pancakes instead of soufflĂ©.   Books, on the other hand, are much harder to censor. 

Life awaits you in this beautiful world of words.  Go and find out for yourself.     


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