Wednesday, July 14, 2004

readers and non-readers

scrolling through Terry Teachout's blogroll at work and clicking on random links brought me to a piece on reading and of course nonreading, and the division of people into readers and nonreaders. (the link in the article is to Harold Bloom's article in the LA Times, and requires registration) and how hard it is to explain why some people are readers, and some people are nonreaders - even education doesn't seem to make a big difference (i suppose in that even education won't make a nonreader a reader rather than making a reader a nonreader; but perhaps education can make a reader a reader, by giving him the literacy required).

it's clear that i am -and pretty much have always been- a reader. even before i could read i was a reader - i made my parents read aloud to me, otherwise i couldn't -wouldn't- go to sleep at night. i memorised stories, and if mom told me The Three Little Pigs any differently than i remembered, i would wake up from my almost-asleep state and correct her. it had to be the same, word for word, identical intonation, night to night. (though there were two versions -the long version and the short version- depending on how tired i looked. those variations i allowed without comment, as long as they were consistent within variation.) i learned to read using Disney books (stunning adults by 'reading' Snow White before i turned four, until my parents explained that i had memorised the book, down to the page turns, and i couldn't actually read) and never looked back. dad used to complain i was spending him out of house and home, and would refuse to take me to the secondhand bookstore until i had read every single book in the last (giant) installment three times. (needless to say, i used to cheat.)

these days i frequently read three books simultaneously, carry books with me to work (though admittedly this is mostly because i read on the train), and always have to read myself to sleep at night. which has the unfortunate side effect of (a) sometimes not falling asleep since the book sucks me in (i try and avoid this by rereading old books where i know what is going to happen); and (b) falling asleep over my work-reading because my brain associates the act of reading (boring/familiar stuff) with sleep. -grin- clever, wot?

so it's hard for me to imagine a type of person who doesn't automatically walk into bookstores when bored and browse, who doesn't love huge Borders and Kinos and Barnes-and-Nobles and the Sem Coop because they have lots of different types of books and sometimes cheap ones too, who doesn't carry books around to read in their free time (ie on the train bus walk waiting time to get to work school dinner). who doesn't READ unless it's absolutely necessary and then no more than necessary. i keep thinking to myself perhaps if their parents had told them bedtime stories every night, and read to them from lots of different books and surrounded them with books they obviously loved, then perhaps they would be readers too.

then again, perhaps not.

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