Winter finally arrived in Pretoria. The nights are cold and often accompanied by a monster called load shedding, leaving me in the dark with no electricity.However, it doesn’t deter me from reading either with a small headlamp, or if all else fails candles. Days are bright and the house filled with sunny corners in which to curl up with a good book.
In April 2013 I wrote the following post. As I still feel the same about the subject, maybe even a little bit stronger I repost it today.
The reader became the book; and summer night
Was like the conscious being of the book.
From: The House Was Quiet and the World Was Calm By Wallace Stevens
The reader sits snugly curled up in a sunny corner lost in her book. It is an ideal day to spend with a good book while soaking up the warmth of the winter sun. The hours pass slowly as she turns the pages completely engrossed in her reading. Slowly she becomes the book while the late winter day becomes the being of the book.
She is not in a cold winter day in Pretoria anymore. She is part of life in dusty Botswana solving mysteries and sharing the life of Mma Ramotswe of The No.1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander Mc Call Smith.
Reading is an enriching, learning and moving experience. Whether it is a children’s book with the fantastic exploits of the hero, a historic novel in which she relives history and shares the experiences of the characters through wars, famine, love and family life, or a futuristic novel with new ideas on technology never thought of before, no book leaves the reader unchanged.
Do we still savour this pleasure in our modern society where television programmes with lots of action, visual and sound effects keep children and adults glued to the screen, where children as young as 2 years old operate the I pad or notebook using pictures and symbols without learning to read the written word?
There is no necessity for using imagination to picture the story told through the written word, no becoming the book, no learning the art of descriptive language,no expansion of vocabulary and correct spelling.
This situation has a negative effect on all learning as reading is a complex cognitive process of decoding symbols in order to construct or derive meaning. It is a means of language acquisition , of communication, and of sharing information and ideas. ( Wikipedia Reading Process )
In the light of the above I ask the question. Can we afford not to read and not to teach our children to read?
Are we in danger of becoming like ancient cultures where only a priviledged few could decipher the writings of the scribes?
I sincerely hope not, but if I look at literacy and reading statistics in South Africa I fear for the survival of a reading community.
On 19 Otober 2012 Nick Mulgrew wrote the following in the Mail & Guardian: It is becoming readily accepted that South Africans do not read books. They read newspapers and magazines – more than two-thirds of South Africans regularly read print media, according to the South African Book Development Council – but they are not so-called committed readers: only 1% of South Africans regularly buy books and only 14% are regular book readers, figures far below the estimated literacy rate of 88.7%.
Therefore I plead with young parents, teach your children the joys of reading, expose them to books for how can we learn to love something we do not know?
To us who are in the position to buy books, let us donate books not wanted anymore to others who can not afford books or who do not have access to the written word.