(The Mind Needs Books Like a Sword Needs a Whetstone)
Do I dare ask such a question — and expect anyone to listen (or better yet, read)? On a popular kid’s TV program a fictional school principal asked an associate “Is the school librarian still alive? Are we still paying her?” The public library is pictured as a place full of dust and spiders and spider webs. Reading books is looked upon as walking instead of riding; driving a horse and buggy instead of flying. Is writing a thing of the past, or just a way of getting a story on paper until someone can turn it into a movie?
True, even the most avid reader will spend the best part of a day reading a medium length novel while the same story could have been crammed into a ninety minute television movie, along with a dozen or so commercials. The reader could have spent the rest of the day doing something worthwhile – like texting or playing video games.
I certainly don’t mean that we shouldn’t watch movies or videos. Let’s look at the riding vs. walking analogy above. I live seven miles from where I work. It would take me almost three hours to walk to work. Riding is the way to go. I get there in ten minutes, but I am not going to give up walking. Take, for example, the little park I pass on my way to work. Of course I have seen it. I drive past every day. It takes four seconds. It’s pretty! But what if I stopped and walked through the park? I could see and enjoy it a lot more. I could stop to smell the flowers; look at birds, maybe squirrels, rabbits – a hornet’s nest in a tree. I could walk off the beaten path to look at other things. If I had time, I might spend several hours there. If I wanted to see more, I could come back the next day. It would still be there. I could even bring others to see what I enjoyed.
Reading is like walking through the park.
Many comparisons between walking/riding through the park and watching/reading a story can be made, but the benefits of reading are much greater and multifaceted than those gained from walking through the park.
Books are the only source for some stories.
There are some places you cannot ride; there are some very good books that will never appear in a movie or video. Some books are written by and for people with very special interests.
Books can fully describe details.
Books can illustrate in detail what a person is thinking how he feels, his temptations, his fears, how he thinks. If you need to see the full picture or situation, you can go back and re-read details. By reading, you learn something about the character of the players in the story.
Books hold a vast amount of resources – They won’t go away. You can go back any time.
With books, you can go back any time to relive something you enjoyed or answer a question in your mind. Like getting off the beaten path, you can put down the book to look up details or facts that spike your interest. This makes the story more enjoyable or understandable.
Books don’t force you to see characters, places, situations in a specified way as in movies, TV programs, videos (no side boards).
Your mind can create characters, places and situations in any way you want them, or can enjoy them. Your mind can make the characters in the story you are reading someone you know, love or hate; or they can become you. Your mind can make the places you read about places you have visited, places you know, or where you lived or grew up. You can make persons, places or things what you want them to be.
Books help to develop an imagination.
I can’t imagine someone with no imagination.
Books develop the reading habit.
As you develop the reading habit, and as your comprehension improves, your interests will move into other nonfiction realms. You will learn more. You will find yourself interested in other things. You won’t be bored all the time when you aren’t playing a video game.