‘I Don’t Read’

girl reading book photo – Free Image on Unsplash

*Sigh* “I don’t read” is not music to a writer’s ears, but I hear it a lot.

Spring is here, it’s getting warmer, and it’s just about time I started writing the next book in my Bell Mountain series. But more and more people don’t read.

I don’t understand this. If books were taken away from me, my mind would starve. Enlightenment. Joy. Excitement. Even escape, at least for a little while. Books provide these things. I couldn’t do without them.

And yet… “I don’t read.” Or else, “I only read things that have to do with my work.” Or even, “I just don’t have the time to read.” As if it were some onerous chore.

I once had a job teaching “developmental reading”–or, more simply, how to read better. It’s not hard to learn. All it takes is practice. But these days I wonder how many students, if any, would sign up for my course.

I’ll keep writing because it’s what I do, it’s who I am. But I wish I knew a way to make reading itself more popular. It’s how the past speaks to us–and the future. It’s how wisdom and experience get passed on from one generation to the next. It’s the only way we have to visit places that don’t actually exist, to learn things that are nevertheless real, and true, despite being cloaked in the imagination.

Give it a chance.

10 comments on “‘I Don’t Read’

  1. I cannot imagine not reading. I was trying to learn to read when I was still a toddler sitting on my mother’s lap as we rode down the road. I would look at every sign and ask what it said, then next time we passed that sign, I would tell her what it said. If I could no longer read, I would curl up and wish to die. Especially, when you think about the drivel that is TV and movies, I thank God for the ability to read.

  2. My husband and I recently watched Fahrenheit 451. I had seen that movie when I was a teenager and it hit me hard back then. In fact, the impact it had on me was so great that I starting trying to memorize the current book I was reading. In today’s world we have the large tvs like the tv walls in the movie. Commuters on the train focus on themselves like outlining their lips with their fingers. A world without books is a strange one and even though our current world still has lots and lots of books, people aren’t reading as they once did. Readers are the odd men out any longer. I love reading and can’t live without it.

    1. Reading is one of the greatest inventions of the human race–it made civilization possible. Social media cannot replace it.

      But a lot of people are losing their ability to hold a conversation, too.

      No talkee, no thinkee.

  3. I find this attitude more among the minorities than the white kids. Some of the black youths I have had in class make it a point of doctrine that they do not read – it is so sad (especially for a sub who just has them for one period).

  4. Trust me Lee, i get the same feedback from people. It’s almost as if the modern techno culture is so immersed in reading texts and social media they don’t give a crap about reading actual books or newspapers or magazines. It’s something that is going to be the end of our civilization.
    At least we agree on that, right?

  5. It’s a strange situation, because the Internet is a form of reading, but it’s not the same as reading a book. I read pretty much constantly. Of late, I find myself performing administrative tasks on Linux machines I inherited, at work. I have a degree of train8 g in this, but only a degree, so I am reading the UNIX and Linux Administration Guide, which is longer than the Bible. The book is to fill in the knowledge gaps.

    If you think about it, this is actually pretty amazing. That so much useful information can be concentrated in one place, which remains available for future reference, is an amazing transfer of knowledge. The Internet has a lot of information available, but much of it is incoherent, incomplete and often even inaccurate. The book benefits from having an editor, whom can fact check, verify internal consistency and prevent mistakes from creeping into print. In the case of this book, it costs $60 in paperback and $40 in Kindle. So, I can carry a massive book along with me and it doesn’t add even a milligram to the weight of my iPad.

    I use Kindle books quite frequently because of their convenience, and because I have so many books already, that it has caused storage problems, and I’ve had to get rid of some books just to make room for new books. But I still buy plenty of books in physical form, and treasure many of these books. Then, there are the sheet music collections which have added so much to my life.

    Written language, in the form of alphabetic characters, is a wonderful tool for storing and for transferring, knowledge. We only have to memorize a limited number of characters, and these can be arranged in virtually unlimited ways, to allow books on many subjects to be written, using a relatively small character set. The Israelites left Egypt and were given the Ten Commandments and the Law of Moses in alphabetic form, which was far different from the hieroglyphs of Egypt. Some feel that this alphabetic writing was a Divine gift, which allowed the laws of God to be distributable and comprehensible to a wide audience.

    To be truly literate in hieroglyphics, one would require a vast education to learn the myriad symbols involved. This means that average people were unlikely to be literate, beyond a relative handful of commonly used symbols. True literacy, under such a system, was restricted along class lines. This, tragically, restricted the upward mobility of truly gifted people that weren’t born into a societal class which would allow them access to greater learning. Beyond that, and perhaps more tragically, it meant that even mediocre intellects would retain an advantaged position, due only to the accident of having been born into the proper class.

    So alphabetic writing, turns out to be a leveler of class distinctions. Someone can be born into modest circumstances, yet better their position in life, simply because they have access to greater knowledge, through reading. I speak from personal experience, having started my career doing manual labor, and ending up in a tech field, where I can work in relative comfort, most of the time. If it wasn’t for books, and literacy, I’d still be schlepping for a living. 🙂

    1. I took Chinese in college. Learning to speak it wasn’t so hard, but trying to learn to read and write in a language that doesn’t have an alphabet–that’s hard!

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