Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Books, Libraries, Reading

I have developed a great love for libraries in the last few years. I have always appreciated them, but I generally preferred to purchase my books. But, now, I don't have the money to buy all the books I want to read, and I don't have the room to store them. So, I use the library - and I've found many advantages. Since we homeschool, we use the library quite a bit for books for the kids. But, now, since I'm home and use reading as one of my distraction techniques from pain, I read lots and lots. I have always loved to read, but I didn't have much time for pleasure reading when I was working. Getting books from the library allows me to read books from all kinds of genres. I also don't feel obligated to finish a book that I don't like since I didn't buy the book.

I like the feel of libraries. It's so quiet and calm in there - like we've left the busy world behind. I also like the look and feel of books, especially old books. I used to spend hours in the LSU Middleton library just looking at old books and magazines, particularly Life magazine. Our regional library has a great online catalog so I can place a hold on a book that I may have read about that I want to read. There is also a "New Books" shelf where I can check out books that look interesting.

A couple of weeks ago, there was an interesting comic strip in the newspaper. It was "Opus" by Berke Breathed (of "Bloom County" fame). In it, Opus is given a new e-book for Christmas - a device where he sits and reads the text on a screen. The other character tells him how this is the future of reading. For a couple of panels we see Opus reading his new e-book with his eyes getting wide as the light from the device shines on him. Then, in the last panel, Opus has gone back to "real" books and he is curled up in an armchair with popcorn, a drink, and a good old-fashioned book! I have that taped up on my desk right now. I love "real" books.

Dr. Mohler's recent blog entry discusses the decline of reading in our society. I share his concern. Reading is an important skill for everyone. But, being able to decode words is not all that's important. People need to be able to read for information. But, we also need to be able to understand the ideas put forth in writing and be able to deal with those ideas - to compare them with other ideas and formulate our own conclusions based on the information.

As a homeschooler, this is less of a practical concern for me and my kids. We go to the library several times per week. Our curriculum is literature based so that the kids are always reading challenging books and being read to. Even Wild Man, with his dyslexia, is reading daily at his reading level (I am concerned because he doesn't like to read, but I think it's just because it's still so difficult for him). We also use audio books. In addition, my kids see me and their dad reading for pleasure and for information, something that's also important to help kids develop a love of reading.

I also agree with Dr. Mohler's stance that reading is particularly important for Christians. Our faith is based on the person of Jesus Christ, but the tenet of our faith are written in the Bible. Literacy is extremely important for Christians to be able to understand the gift that God has given us.

Unfortunately, literacy in all areas of society appears to be an issue. Mr. Math Teacher finds that he has kids in middle school and high school who do not read adequately for their grade level. How can we help? In our own families, we must promote reading as an important skill to be learned, but also as a fun leisure activity. Schools have to be serious about children learning to read. Churches can also help by providing literacy classes for adults and providing after-school help for students. Individuals can help friends and family members with literacy activities. Our community has extra help for kids after school at the local library.

Somehow our society needs to get away from our utter dependence on television. I'm not completely opposed to TV - I love my History Channel - but so many people are getting all of their information from the TV. I think we can blame a number of our social ills on our need for media. Books require patience and attention. TV allows us to get information in 30 minute segments. Books take us in depth. TV is far more shallow.

I'm not going to be able to solve this issue for all of society, but I can influence my own home. To paraphrase Scripture: As for me and my house, we will read.

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