“There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.”
Long ago in an America far, far away, there was a public service campaign that claimed, “Reading is Fundamental”. This took place in my children’s youth rather than mine, so it’s not quite ancient history.
I was raised to be a reader, by example. When Reading is Fundamental began to appear on television screens around the country, I jumped right in. (This was one of the few times I ever supported government sponsorship of anything.) The program died an inglorious death as reading and comprehension scores nationwide plummeted even further.
Deplorable clinger that I am, I still read. What is more, I still believe it is fundamental. In my thinking, there are two types of people. Those who wish to know things rather than look things up and those who wish to employ imagination and thought rather than be spoon-fed.
To read to know things is to value learning for learning’s sake. Reading to use your imagination, well that’s just fun. Both are purely subjective. How much you learn and how much enjoyment you receive is equal to how much you invest and your personal preferences. Some people run marathons, I read Don Quixote or the four-volume biography of R.E. Lee.
This brings me to a fundamental question. What are you reading?
I have just finished Machiavelli’s The Prince. I have beside me two books that I am reading, Kipling’s Just So Stories, and a book called The Longest Night about the bombing of London on May 10, 1941, which includes an extended description of London during The Blitz.
I also did do a quick read-through of Antigone by Sophocles and Medea by Euripides but both of those are in connection with a class I’m taking on ancient Greece and don’t fit this discussion since they were assigned.
Reading will take you anywhere in the multiverse, to any point in/beyond time, and introduce you to creatures great and small. Don’t talk to me about diversity and inclusion unless you read.
The Reading is Fundamental program was aimed at kids, but it was a shotgun blast. It’s never too late to discover reading, and in the words of C.S. Lewis, “One day you’ll be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.”
In a postscript, I found out that Reading is Fundamental still exists. What is being turned out by homes and schools suggests it’s still a failure.