“Books help define who I am. They have ushered me on a journey of faith, have introduced me to the wonders of science and the natural world, have informed me about issues such as justice and race. More importantly, they have been a source of delight and adventure and beauty, opening windows to a reality I would not otherwise know.” – Philip Yancey, author
Every true reader can identify with the statement that books are indeed vehicles of knowledge, creativity and power.
Today the world over, books and reading are being celebrated this World Book Day.
For some this elicits wonderful memories of reading countless books that have brought pleasure or may even have prompted a visit to the book store or online catalogue these days, to see what new edition can be added to that treasured collection.
But for some books will not even get a passing thought.
Sadly, many have not discovered reading as one of the ultimate joys of living.
Indeed, frequently heard is the absurd suggestion that reading is a bore.
And though it’s farcical, to say the least, in a world of information overload, where we are bombarded by messages from television, smartphones and social media – WhatsApp, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and all the rest, it is almost understandable that some don’t have the attention span that a book requires.
Even in a society like Barbados where the literacy rate is said to be close to 100 per cent, reading appears to be a dying past time.
And the advent of the Kindle Fire, the Nook, audiobooks and other tablets designed to make reading easier have not helped.
Most read if forced to — in the classroom or on the job if required.
Still reading is a treasure and little can be compared to a great book – especially that distinct smell of the printed pages, bounded together in hardcover or paperback.
Ever wondered why readers suggest that in most cases the book is far better than the movie based on the book? Reading triggers the imagination to feel and experience literally every paragraph. In a film, we are left to enjoy what the director sees.
Indeed, good books are required reading.
Here in Barbados, it was something of note to be known as a person well-read and not merely just one who reads well.
Among the habits of some of the world’s most successful men is reading.
American philanthropist and founder of Microsoft Bill Gates reads 50 books a year. Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive officer of Facebook, reads at least one book every two weeks and Warren Buffett, the American business magnate spends five to six hours a day reading.
Experts have long told us that reading is the gateway to learning. For every child, the ability to read is prerequisite to mastering any subject, including maths.
Good books sharpen the intellect on any topic matter. They inspire us to work hard, to excel, to be creative. Books take us places we never will travel to in our lifetimes and share experiences of fellow human beings that we ourselves may never see.
Surely, we can benefit much more from reading than surfing, liking or tweeting.
As Mark Twain wrote, “the man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.”
World Book Day then is a good opportunity to rekindle interest in reading good books and we have enough local and regional authors to enjoy – Pig Tails ‘n Breadfruit by Austin ‘Tom’ Clarke, the George Lamming classic, In the Castle of My Skin, or Jeanette Layne-Clark’s Bajan Badinage.
Now is also as good a time as any to urge authorities to do all they can to fast track the reopening of the Coleridge Street Carnegie Library that was closed in August 2006 after 100 years of service to the public with its impressive collections. This will no doubt help to create a new generation of lifelong readers.
Books are the gift that keeps on giving