People do not read.
Well, not leisurely. Not like they used to anyway.
Back in the 18th-19th centuries that’s really all we had. The hopeful words of a long dead now famous author, because no one was famous when they were alive back then, transporting us to a new place.
People knew big words and had imaginations. I mean you had to when you read. You could feel Oliver’s pangs of hunger and guilt and almost see that giant white whale on the horizon.
Somewhere along the way, when we became technologically savvy we lost the idea that sparked it all. Books catapulted us into the future before we were physically able to pull it off.
A couple years ago I was sitting in my sophomore English class terrified that it would be difficult. I kept thinking
I’m in college now, everything will be ten times harder.
The professor walked in and we did the whole get to know each other thing. Then she asked us about what we read in the past. She went down a list and asked us to raise our hand if we read the work. So, I’m sitting there crossing my fingers hoping to know at least one title.
The first five or six I had never heard of. So, I start thinking; “Shit, I’m so far behind,” Then she starts saying things I recognize like:
- The Raven
- The Tell Tale Heart
- Jane Eyre
- The Iliad & The Odyssey
Then I become one of those smug know it alls and break out into a grin. I felt so good about myself for that brief moment for reading a handful of the titles she mentioned.
After she finished the list we talked about Edgar Allen Poe. I was so surprised by the number of people who had never heard of him or read ‘The Raven’ or ‘The Tell Tale Heart.’ I thought they were the most popular works by Poe, and the number of people who didn’t know who he was, was entirely too many. When the professor asked me when I read the poems I replied “In eighth grade.” She was surprised that I read them that early, and I was surprised to know that, that was early.
That threw me. I told her that I was homeschooled through a charter school throughout middle school. The whole time I went to that charter school it never felt advanced, but clearly it was.
There in lies the problem. Public education. I’m not saying that all public schools are bad, but sometimes they leave some thing to be desired.
I went to two public high schools and one was good and the other was lacking.
*This is not a rant against public education.
(I felt like that disclaimer was needed).
I just know that some, not all, teachers are not encouraging kids to read outside of the class. Some are just grateful they did the required amount of book reports. It does not just fall on the teachers either. They should also be learning at home to pick up a book.
I try to encourage my younger brothers to read more by, well bribing them. I can call it “offering them incentives,” but we all know at the end of the day that it is a bribe. That’s how I got them to clean their room, get my clothes from the dryer, get me things from the store, etc.
But the problem with that, well the relevant problem, is that I am almost forcing them to do something they don’t like. It’s not like I said;
Hey, I’ll give you ten bucks to play Grand Theft Auto thirty-seven for five hours,
(I know that there are really not thirty-seven GTA’s)
I am asking them to learn, grow, and escape to a better world through literature for at least thirty minutes.
(When they were in middle school they were required to read thirty minutes at home. I would time them and never let them see the timer. They would read on the floor of my bedroom while I read on my bed and I almost always made them read for an hour. Of course they thought they were only reading for an half an hour and I never told them until they were done).
Where will our future generations be if they never pick up a book? It doesn’t even have to be an actual book. It can be a book on tape, or a kindle, or even a graphic novel.
There had to be a way to get people to read without forcing or bribing them. A way to make the whole world love literature again.
Each person has a literature inside them.
– Anna Deavere Smith