Saturday, April 9, 2011

Why Read?

I grew up on the movie Matilda. I wanted to be just like her--to the point that I checked out Herman Melville's Moby Dick from my local library and honestly planned on reading it. I was in the first grade. But there is a line in Matilda, said by her father, that seems true the general opinion of the United States today.

"There's nothing you can get from a book that you can't get from a television faster."

And with all the technology of today, doesn't it make sense? We have televisions, radios, podcasts, and other means by which we can obtain all the information that we need. According to the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), the percentage of adults in the United States who read dropped from 60.9% to 56.6% between the years of 1992 and 2002. It seems that America is taking advantage of what is placed before her, which leads us to the question--why read?

Dr. Seuss once wrote,

The more that you read, the more things you will know.
The more that you learn, the more places you go.

Well, naturally. I think that it is safe to say that everyone, to one degree or another, associates reading with the learning process. We all know that the letters, words, and sentences in our textbooks contain information. We all know that there is a meaning behind the classic literature we read in our English classes. But do we look towards books as the same escape as we do towards our iPods and TVs? According to NEA's results, many of us do not. Rather, we see reading as yet another item on our ever-growing to-do list. It is something that must be removed, avoided, or, at the very least, shortened via SparkNotes. What a shame.

In a world where speed is the objective, many of us fail to realize that reading is an opportunity. Not an opportunity to get us on the "fast track" of life, not an opportunity to obtain a PhD while still in your teens, and certainly not an opportunity for any kind of shortcut. Reading is an opportunity to slow down. To step outside of the rush. To think. To exist. To There is something to be said for processing a story over a significant amount of time. While it is not the most convenient or time efficient, it is by far the most influential. By taking time from our busy schedules, we open ourselves to receive what a little paper and ink can offer.

Whatever it is that you choose to read, it offers a new perspective on the world around you. Through a book, a blog, a newspaper, a magazine--anything that is well written--you can step out of your own world and into another. You can gain experiences and insights that your own life never could have given you. While I will never experience what it was like to be a black woman in the early 1960s, live in Afghanistan, or fly on a broomstick in my own life, I have experienced all these through the work of Kathryn Stockett, Khaled Hosseini, and J.K. Rowling. There have been times that I, for a moment, have confused my reading for my own life. Like a dream, there is a faint line dividing it from reality. But, though I logically know that I did not live it, I feel that I experienced it. There is beauty in that; there is beauty in being affected, truly affected, by something outside of yourself. And that is why I read. I read because, without costing me so much as a penny, it is enough to change my life.

1 comment:

  1. Dania, I love you. And I love this article! You are so good at putting down things in such a way that skips all the, as Andrew would say, gerrymandering and goes straight to the heart, to the center of your meaning and your reader.