Books and books and more books?

December 16, 2018

Several years ago, I read the final report of research that had been done some years ago about how rapidly knowledge is increasing. The report listed some of those things that will disappear during our lifetime due to that increase.

One of those things is the post office. Who writes letters anymore when one can just email and save the 5o cents? Computers have just about moved every television to the back room. Most of us use the wide screen TV only as a screen through which we stream from our computers and our phones. Landline phones are kept only for sentimental reasons, if we can afford to have the luxury. Have you taken a look at the size of newspapers? Those that once were 20 pages are now only a few pages. When did you last write a check? I only write checks when I have misplaced my debit card and even then the cashiers look at me as if I have just arrived from a long sleep with Rip Van Winkle.

The most painful item to lose that was on that list is the book. Now, will those who love the joy of turning the pages of a book and who actually love the sight of seeing the written words on paper be able to slow down the inevitable disappearance of the book?

Many moons ago when I lived in the country, many farmers refused to allow the power company to put up power poles on their property. Even later after coming to Rome, I remember the decision to not let I-75 come any closer to Rome. That did slow down progress for those in the area, but time and change ticked right along, leaving behind those who desired to be left.

I am not ready to accept the disappearance of books as we know them because as a child I enjoyed turning pages and reading the book. That was the process by which I learned to read. I believe most of us learned to read by reading. We learned to spell by seeing the words on paper. My son read the report and said, “Mom, there is something healthy and empowering about holding the book and turning the pages. I will always want to read for myself and turn my own pages,” and yet on the other hand, I have a niece who is an avid reader and would not have it any other way than to be read to. It all started when she and her husband had three children and did a lot of traveling with the children. Books being read on cassette recordings had become popular and quite helpful as an educational tool as well as a “keep the kids quiet tool.” I know her reading for herself has been reduced considerable. We have many schools of thought on the advantage or disadvantage of “the being read to or the reading for yourself” issue.

Books and books and more books are being published, and I am glad about it. To be honest, the report left me a little melancholy because I have plans to write a book “one day.” Actually, I believe that most all of us have a book inside that needs to be written, even if it is just in the form of a memoir. I want readers to examine the cover, turn the pages, read the words and experience the experiences themselves in my book. My desire is for readers to hear my voice and experience my feelings.

In my circle I have friends and family members who have written books: Herman Davis, LaShone L. Grimes, Clemmie Whatley, Nancy Samuel, Carey Ingram, Norris Allen, Morell J. Darko (deceased), Shirley Denmon — and I am sure there are others of whom I am not aware.

Our former First Lady Michelle Obama’s book sold 2 million copies in 15 days. So what is it that will keep books as we know them selling to some degree if not that magnitude, as they at the same time are disappearing? During the summer when one of my grands was here spending time with us, we had many things on our schedule and we took him with us. In most of the places that we went, books were all around. I was so heartbroken when never once did he lift a book from the shelves. I expressed my disappointment to my husband, but not the child. Time after time from place to place, picking up a book and flipping through it was not on my grand’s agenda.

Time has made a difference. When my son was growing up, I along with other parents had to take books from many of them because they had not quite learned how to turn the pages and most times they would tear pages accidentally, even in the hymnals at church. Not so with this young one, and that was a little disheartening for me. Regrettably, I believe that is the case with most of our little ones, as well as the adults. We used to be extremely curious to see what was behind the covers of those beautiful books.

My advice to young parents has always been to say, “Read to your child from birth until he/she begins to say ‘Let me read it’ or ‘I can read it for myself’ or simply ‘I can do it.’” Talk to the child even when he or she cannot understand what you are talking about. The very same reasoning is true about talking. Children learn to talk by hearing talk.

As was stated earlier, there are many schools of thought on the need for “the book experience.” My thought is to hold onto them in print as long as possible. We can help that along by reading more ourselves and letting our children see how pleasurable it is. We used to have book clubs by the thousands. Have most of them all but disappeared?

Can we adults put the iPads and iPhones down for the sake of helping our children learn to spell and read by actually seeing the written words in context?

Willie Mae Samuel is a playwright and a director in Rome.

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