Enjoying the gift of reading

By  Daniel Telech, Youth Speak News
  • June 6, 2008

The ability to read is generally taken for granted among today’s youth. For many it is seen as a labourious, lengthy, unexciting task that, when rivalled with television, computers and movies, fails magnificently in terms of gratification. To some it is an archaic pastime.

I was once of similar mind, but over the years I’ve come to recognize that reading can be enjoyable, to say the very least. 

Looking back, literacy was once limited to learned scribes and individuals. Before the invention of Gutenberg’s printing press, most knowledge was transferred verbally. With the industrial revolution book prices became affordable for all classes of industrial society and one could attain and read most texts, in a variety of translations. From a 21st-century perspective, all is convenient in terms of access to literature, yet sadly neglected.

The availability of web sites like sparknotes.com and other literary companions have allowed students to grasp the key themes and events of a book, even to moderate detail, without actually reading the whole book from beginning to end.

Falsely seen as a gift to the student, such sites rob the individual of the reward that many good books hold for their readers. These web sites are not to blame. It is up to the individual and although teachers tell students, “it only hurts you in the end,” overlooking fundamental readings actually hurts society as a whole, limiting the overall aptitude of its members.

In Romans 12:2 it is written, “(a)nd do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

In his monumental work, The Closing of the American Mind, Allan Bloom writes, “the failure to read good books both enfeebles the vision and strengthens our most fatal tendency — the belief that the here and now is all there is.” Billions upon billions have lived before us. They have succeeded, failed, loved, hated, created and destroyed; we are mistaken if we think there is little to learn from their stories.

Gaining knowledge is not the only benefit of reading. The enjoyment of a well-written novel is difficult to parallel. 

At the very least reading can be done at times when recreational options are limited; in the car, when exhausted, before sleep, etc; although this seems to degrade the sanctity of the written word — one that has allowed the transferring of good news to illuminate lives everywhere.

It seems that we should read more than we write, but perhaps this isn’t so. To read is to indulge in another’s thoughts and too much swimming in the mind of another may result in a loss of individual voice. In any case, reading seems to be a less demanding task than writing; perhaps that’s why some see the latter as a calling.

It may be counter-intuitive to advocate reading in a newspaper, as those who prefer television will be quick to ignore, but perhaps this article’s short length will help in the crucial matter. 

(Telech, 19, will be studying philosophy at the University of Toronto in the fall.)

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