August 21, 2007

Not Enough Reading in this Country

According to this article, one in four people polled haven't read a single book in the last year. As a book lover I find this astounding; as a previous book-avoider I can see how it could be true.

Before we chucked the television in 2001 I read very little. I didn't even know where the library was in my town. What little I did read was mostly for bible study or picture books to the kiddos, and even this was very limited. Reading was not a pleasure and felt like a waste of time. It seemed impractical. I simply "didn't have time." My time was taken up with morning visits with friends, shopping, certain stupid TV shows, and a lot of sewing. I mourn for my age of ignorance.

Of course now, if I don't have time to read each day I feel cheated. What's odd is that I really have less time now then I did when I wasn't reading at all. I really started reading in earnest when my third baby came along and we started homeschooling. As I started reading up on homeschooling I found how important reading is to a well educated mind. And I don't mean reading the fluff I was reading in the first year or two of this journey. Romance novels and memoirs about overcoming childhood abuse are more sentimental than educational, though I can see how reading one of these memoirs could be helpful if one is currently in a abusive situation and needing assistance or motivation to get out of it. When I read up on classical education I was thoroughly convinced of the importance of good books in life. When I read The Well-Educated Mind I was ready to take the plunge. I was determined read all those books that I should have read in school but never knew anything about, the classics.

As I cracked open my first real classic, Don Quixote, I was very intimidated. I had NEVER read a book bigger than 200 pages. DQ is 1000 pages. I gave it 4 hours a night, every night for a month. When I finished it I felt on top of the world; but my work was not done yet. The Well-Educated Mind has two levels of questions that you answer for each book you read. Some of these questions were frustrating. But in another couple of weeks I felt that I understood DQ inside out. As a reward for accomplishing such a hefty goal I read Anne of Green Gables, not a book that teaches anything lofty but an instant favorite none the less.

After a year I notice that those 1000 page tomes were read through a bit faster. Those questions could be answered in a night or two. I found that with consistency and dedication I had become a reader.

My life has been thoroughly enriched by this journey into literature. I love sharing my story with others. I hope my struggles and successes encourage others to take that next step. I feel sorry for those that will never understand the benefit of a book. It's value is beyond measure.

11 comments:

kookiejar said...

I've been a reader my entire life. Started when I was 4 with Beatrix Potter. I've never really understood people who don't read. What do they keep in their heads? I mean, my brain is populated with every character I've ever read about...there are some pretty interesting people in there. What goes on in the mind of the non-reader?

Petunia said...

That's exactly what I mourn for, all that time when I wasn't using my head for thinking. I filled my life with noise. Then I never noticed that I wasn't actually thinking about anything. Now I can't stand background noise.

a.book.in.the.life said...

I have had a copy of The Well-Educated Mind for a few years now but have never managed to get through DQ. However the way you describe the feeling of completing it certinly makes me want to pick it up again!

Carrie K said...

Wasn't that a horrifying survey? I've been a reader all my life but I was married to a non reader. In fact, I think he could barely read. I spend a lot of my free time knitting nowadays, but I ALWAYS have a book with me.

I'd never heard of your reference book, I'll have to check it out. There are times when I wish a book came with a lecture series.

Petunia said...

A Book-it takes effort but it feels great to learn something new. I have a lot more confidence when judging a book now.

Carrie-you should try some book on tape if you can. They are a great way to get through a book while doing other activities, like crafts, cooking, dishes, etc.

a.book.in.the.life said...

I do wish I could be more analytical about books if that makes sense? Sometimes I feel I rush through them too fast and miss lots.

Nymeth said...

It's too bad that some people won't give books a shame. There are so many kinds of books out there that there has to be something for each person.

Reading is an essential part of my life. I find it so enriching - it allows me to broaden my understanding of people, of life - of everything, really. Through reading I come across new perspectives, emotions and situations I would perhaps never consider otherwise. I really can't imagine my life without books.

Petunia said...

A Book-you can, it just takes time and effort. Try reading a classic that has critical essays included with it. They can be very helpful at digging deeper into a work.

Nymeth-now that I have experienced what reading can do I would never be able to give it up. When I'm 99 I hope I will still find a way to read or be read to.

Trish said...

Petunia - wow! This is such an encouraging and inspiring message. I have always been a reader as I was more introverted than my sisters (one is just now getting to reading after my constant nagging). It is something that is incredibly dear to me and its difficult for me to understand how people cannot find joy in reading. I do understand that everyone has different interests, I do I do I do, but it still makes me a little sad inside that most of my family and friends do not share this incredible thing (books, reading, etc).

Anyway, thank you for sharing. I haven't read The Well-Educated Mind, but from your post it sounds very interesting--definitely something I will be looking into.

Petunia said...

Sometimes I wonder how my life would have been different if I had been encouraged to read more as a child. I have spent most of my life feeling stupid, until I started reading and realized that stupidity is not a disability like blindness, it's a challenge that can be overcome with time and effort. I don't consider myself an intellectual but I no longer feel like a total dunce. This is what reading has done for me.

While I have gotten a lot from the Well-Educated Mind, another good choice is How to Read a Book. TWEM is like a simpler version of HtRaB.

Trish said...

Thanks for the extra title!