The Reader Becomes The Book

book 4-horz

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.

book 1Such is the effect and pleasure of reading. The reader becomes part of the lives and  characters of the book.

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.


When the dogs bite, when the bees sting when I’m feeling sad

I simply remember  my favourite things  and then I don’t feel so bad.

One of my earliest memories is of lying on the bed with my mother while she is reading to me and my sister from my favourite childhood book, Stories van Rivierplaas ( Stories of a Riverfarm) By Alba Bouwer

Stories van Rivierplaas

The author’s use of alliteration and rythm in her writing evoked the most vivid pictures in my imagination of two little girls, one with dark hair and one with white blond hair running through the long ,yellow, dry veld grass of an African farm to play at the river. In my mind’s eye I could see the little blond and black heads bobbing just above the grass as they ran along and I wished I could join them.

I could hear the sound of Aia Mietie working and singing in and around the house with her bangles going cling-aling- aling and her long dress and broom swish swishing as she cleaned. I could taste and smell the putupap rolled into little balls with her fingers and dipped into sheshewa which she ate sitting  with her legs stretched straight out before her in the sun next to the house. All this while lying on the bed with my mother on a cold highveld winter’s day.

The book has long since been lost in the business of living, but being a human being I  was blessed with a wonderful thing called a memory. A sound, a taste, sight or smell, can  in an instant trigger the wonderful memories that form the tapestry of life. Therefore I long ago made the decision  if I have a choice, I would rather buy an experience to enjoy with loved ones and friends, giving me more memories to add to the allready existing files in my brain than another material object which can be lost in many ways.