A friend of mine told me that when she got her cable installed for her television, she wanted to block certain channels from viewing by her kids. She couldn’t figure out how to do it, so what did she do? She asked her kids to block the channels from themselves!
But do these technologically savvy youngsters read books for pleasure? Do they know who Louisa May Alcott was or what Robert Lewis Stevenson wrote? Have they read Emily Bronte or Mark Twain? And it is not just kids who bury their (our) noses too often in their computers or smart phones. I am not saying it’s all bad. But we only have so many hours in a lifetime. Whereas we once spent our leisure time reading books, I wonder how many of those hours are now spent scrolling through the latest posts on Facebook or Instagram or some other social medium.
It would be a tremendous shame if our youth ceased to read for entertainment, for enlightenment. I think the best books are not the ones that tell us how to think or behave, but the ones that leave us with questions. I recently read a post from a reader who said that Gone with the Wind disturbed her for a long time because of its ending. I thought back to the first time I read it. I stumbled across the novel on the shelves of our local library and, believe it or not, I had never heard of it. I was engrossed. And, yes, I too was disturbed by the ending. But would we have remembered it as well or as long if Scarlett had fallen into Rhett’s arms in the finale? Instead, we have to wonder if she’s getting what she deserves, and to question what will happen tomorrow. After all, tomorrow is another day.
Books open doors in a way that nothing else can. They allow us to draw our own pictures of the setting and characters, rather than relying on the director or actors as in a movie. They expand our vocabulary, not because we look words up in the dictionary but because we learn from context as we encounter those same words again and again. When you are engaged in the story, you probably don’t want to take time to look words up even on your smart phone. And, honestly, you don’t need to!
Many of my favorite books can be categorized as young adult or even children’s books. But when I was in those age groups, I remember reading and cherishing many adult novels. Don’t limit yourselves to one genre or one reading level, or you might miss some true treasures.
Finally, I still believe we can learn a lot from our elders. Several years ago I had two women in a college class I was teaching who were mother and daughter. Both led busy lives. By the end of the course it became clear that the mother would earn one of the highest grades in the class, while the daughter was likely to fail. The mother confided to me that she had learned to snatch every available moment—while baking something in the oven, while drying a load of laundry, etc.—to read a paragraph or two of her text. I don’t know if her daughter ever learned that lesson, but it has certainly stayed with me over the years. If I have a longish drive or an appointment—hair salon, dentist, doctor’s office, whatever—you’ll rarely catch me without a book or an audio book!
Besides the Bible, can you name a book that has made a difference in your life?