Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Why read?


I once sat on a panel of children's literature book enthusiasts at a conference. One of the questions that came from the audience, and it was clearly facetious, was "why is it so important that kids read anyway?"


It was an interesting question, and one that forced those of us on the panel to articulate a concept that seemed so obvious to us, yet one we'd never put into words. "Why," the audience member continued, "is it not good enough that kids just watch TV or movies? They get stories in those mediums too."


My pat answer was to rattle off yet another quote. "I've never met a bigot who was, as a child, a reader." (author unknown)
The other panel members had more thorough answers. First of all we established the fact that we use and challenge a different part of our brain while reading as opposed to viewing TV or movies. Very important. Then we reiterated that it is only through reading that we learn what it feels like to live in someone else's skin, in their circumstances. Through reading we develop empathy and understanding. The more widely we read, the greater understanding we gain of the world outside of our own little lives. We learn what it feels like to be the opposite sex, to live in a different country, a different era, a different political system, with a different set of values. In short, we learn tolerance. And bigots, of course, are anything but tolerant.

In my last post Leslie named the book that turned her onto a reader as a young girl. The Girl of the Limberlost. The book I most vividly remember as a young girl was Harriet the Spy.


What was it for you?

photo credit: http://lowe.lib.wv.us/read01.jpg

14 comments:

Tan said...

I just finished answering this question, a day late for the CWILL blog. It was all about Little House on the Prairie, for me!

http://tanyalloydkyi.blogspot.com/2009/03/wednesday-tell-all.html

Deborah Hodge said...

Hi Shelley,

Thanks for a thoughtful read. I had never before made the connection between reading and tolerance, but it makes complete sense! Thanks for shining a light on this!

Debbie

m hooey said...

my favourite stories as a child were Grimms Fairy Tales. those, and the stories my father used to make up.
reading is like time travel where you get to set the dial.
you're an inspiration! please keep writing.

Anonymous said...

When I was very small, it was The Whimsical Piglet by Hilda Boswell. (I regularly search eBay these days but have not found a copy.) By the time I was 12, I had moved on to Greek mythology. (Don't know if reading about people being chained to rocks and having eagles eat their livers made me more tolerant ... but I loved the drama and big themes.) Then, by the time I was 16, it was historical romance lite (Georgette Heyer).

A bit of a mixture, but perhaps that is the good thing about reading when you're young: getting widely different perspectives on the world from a variety of authors.

... Anmaru

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