Has reading for pleasure become obsolete?
When I was a little girl, reading was a treat. After our weekly trip to the library, my brother, sister and I would pile up in my mother’s lap as she read aloud to us. When she left to start dinner, we would each sort through our new pile of books, curl up and read until supper.
When I visited my grandparents, I spent summer afternoons on the porch reading Nancy Drew and whatever else I could find on their bookshelves. I read and reread Rudyard Kipling and The Wizard of Oz and other classics.
At night, unbeknownst to my parents, I read way past my bedtime. An illicit pleasure.
I was allowed to read books w hen I finished my homework. Watching TV was not an option. We owned a television set; we just weren’t allowed to turn it on.
In sixth grade, w hen my class was talking about Robin and Bat Man and the danger they avoided, I had no idea they were talking about a new TV show. But I did know all about Robinson Crusoe and Mary Rommely.
I read to my three sons regularly when they were younger. I limited TV until they had finished their reading, and I made sure I set an example by reading myself.
It didn’t take. They see reading as drudgery, if not pure punishment. They would no more pick up a book to read for fun as they would flair their bare backs with a cat-o-nine-tail.
Reading has way too much competition now. There are hundreds of channels on the television to watch. There were barely three when I was a girl.
The video game systems just keep getting better and more expensive and more addicting. When I was a girl, marbles were an alternative to reading.
The whole world is at their fingertips via the internet. We had to rely on our outside information from our neighbor, Billie Sue. In comparison with X-Box and Google and Court TV, a book seems dull.
The summer before my middle son went to college, I had finally thrown in the towel. I stopped harping on the virtues of reading to my sons. This particular son happened to pick up a book I had left lying around. He found he couldn’t put it down and finished it in three days! He was dumfounded by this phenomenon. A book more interesting that Hank Hill or Halo? He requested the sequel. Same thing. Then he asked me for recommendations. I passed on The Glass Castle, The Road and Water for Elephants. He read them all, and asked for more.
Over the holiday, he retired to his room with a book while the rest of us watched King of the Hill.
So I resolve to relax about making my youngest son passionate about reading. I plan to let books do my work for me. I simply leave all the page turners that have kept me up late out in plain sight. I hope he will pick one of them up and be riveted by different worlds and characters that work their ways into his heart and problems that he can’t imagine. I hope that he, like his brother, will finally be snared for life.