Imagine a world without books. Can you? No, neither can I. But I know plenty of few people who don’t read books and don’t give a jot.
There are different types of non-readers. Take my husband, a veterinary surgeon. He only reads scientific papers on surgical and medical procedures explaining how to castrate chickens or diagnose skin diseases in dogs. He doesn’t read fiction but he still seems to be a very well-rounded person in terms of culture.
Then there are non-readers like my beautician who has never, ever read a book in her life. She is a very pleasant lady and my nails always look immaculate, however, I was quite shocked the other day when she confessed that when her husband had told her that he was going to work in Argentina, she had said “Oh, that’s in Italy isn’t it!”. Inexplicably, she was proud of her dunce-like level of general knowledge, which is certainly down to not reading books.
Yes, I know… interacting with bright colours, special effects and moving images on a computer screen or tablet can be more entertaining than staring at a static black and white printed page on a superficial level, but in my opinion all this overstimulation is making it difficult for young people to develop their powers of concentration and interfering with their educational development on all too many levels.
From personal experience I can confirm that the lure of technological wizardry claims many victims. My son, now a grown man, absolutely refused to study at school and spent most of his teenage years wearing a headset and shouting into a microphone as he played computer games. My begging and pleading were in vain. I read to him. I got a private tutor. I spent a fortune on books and even bribed him to read and study. But he was and is as interested in reading and understanding the world around him as he is on washing up and cleaning out the fridge. The only words he is interested are the ones that appear on the screen when he plays World of Warcraft.
When he was in his late teens, during an everyday conversation I suddenly realised that he did not know the months of the year. I was mortified. How can you not know something like that? Little children know the months of the year. His reply? “I don’t need to remember things like that. I can look at my mobile phone.” Although I went ballistic and would not let him use the Internet again until he could recite the months of the year forwards, backwards, upside down and sideways, by this time the damage had been done.
What’s the answer? I don’t know… but I don’t regret my childhood of being ‘allowed’ to look at the National Geographic magazines and the quiet pleasure of curling up with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. You can keep your World of Warcraft, give me a good book any day.