Losing the art of reading by Susan Grimsdell
Recent statistics indicate that reading books is a fast-disappearing pastime. It seems that some young people leaving school can barely read at all, let alone read great works of literature.
Access to the classics
They have trouble grasping the meaning of words and sentences, so to think of them picking a book like Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” or Dickens’ “Great Expectations” off the shelf is laughable. It just doesn’t happen. I remember not long ago a young person won the prize for a critical essay on Harper Lee’s “To Kill a “Mockingbird” and when asked if he actually liked the book he said, “Oh I haven’t read it, I saw the movie”.
University students tend to read textbooks, to help them pass exams, but ask them what their favourite novel is and they stare blankly at you, or else they name some bestselling trash.
Young people’s culture is auditory and visual. They fill their heads with noise, called “music” or they watch TV and movies, and play video games. These offer endless thrills, one after the other, plot, action, excitement. Uncomplicated moral situations, good guys, bad guys, black and white. These diversions provide no training for learning to love a story and characters that develop slowly, that are fleshed out over many pages until they become real complex human beings, rather than simplistic images from someone else‘s imagination. When kids’ leisure time is filled with this kind of pursuit, how will they come to understand science or cultures other than their own and their histories. How will they get a depth of understanding of the human condition? They won’t.
A world of riches
Books introduce us to a magic world where we meet people who are more interesting, amusing and intelligent than most people we meet in real life. Reading gives us a pathway to learning about our past, our present time, our wars and joys. What a frightening world it will be when fewer and fewer people read. The saddest thing is that by not reading, a large part of a generation is missing out on the most precious thing of all, a love of and passion for reading.