I am amazed, bemused and baffled by those programs they keep coming up with — like “Reading is FUNdamental!” — trying to tempt children to read. “Try sugar! You might LIKE the way it tastes!” makes about as much sense. I’m sorry, but some things just don’t need a catchy slogan. Reading, like sugar, is one of those self-evident and addicting pleasures.
And it can be just as harmful. You don’t hear that talked about so much. Everyone is so anxious for children to read, those of us who were helpless junkies from the day we first encountered Pat The Bunny or Goodnight Moon were actually encouraged to wallow in our addiction. We were held up as models for other children — children doubtless far more active and healthy than we were. We sat through recess with our noses in books. I walked home from school holding a book in front of my face, navigating the streets with my peripheral vision. And, once home, flopped on my stomach on my bed to continue reading. And reading. And reading.
Now that I am an adult, subject to an adult’s perspective on the company of little children, I wonder whether encouraging a child to read is partly self-interest on the adults’ part. I must have been remarkably easy to quiet. I was never bored at my parents’ parties or dinners or meetings or other dull events to which I was dragged at a tender age. I brought books. All I needed was an out-of-the-way corner with some light, and I no longer cared how dull the meeting was, or how far over my head the conversation. I was also pretty easy to buy presents for. “What do you want for your birthday?” “Books!” “What do you want for Christmas?” “Books!” “What should I bring you from Canada?” “Books!”
Granted, if there is such a thing as a healthy addiction, reading might be it. My point is, there is probably no such thing as a healthy addiction. Every addiction has the power to steal important chunks of your life, and reading is no exception. A good book removes you from reality just as effectively as any drug — and even has a hangover effect. If I am in the middle of a good book, do not be deceived by the fact that said book is not in my hand at the moment. I am not with you. I hear you with only half an ear. Watch carefully, and you will catch me walking into furniture or putting the milk in the cupboard and the cereal in the refrigerator. Because if I’m in the middle of a good book, I do not wholly emerge until I finish the last page. And if it’s a really good book, sometimes not for days after that.
Seriously, there are entire weeks when I shouldn’t be allowed to drive.
I was given a Kindle for my birthday. Look out.