Thursday, August 14, 2008

Brought to Book

No doubt there are many fond parents in Britain, who, on learning that their 14 year old offspring have a reading age of 11, are desperately searching around for someone to blame.
Top candidates would be the schools and the teachers, the Minister for Education, Nu Labour and that all time favourite of the British to account for every ill that besets them, Brussels and the EU.
But perhaps they should look closer to home.
On the rare occasions when I venture across the threshold of what, in the good old days before surveillance, was an Englishman’s castle, it’s hard to see where the incentive is for a child to take up reading. Most doctors’ surgeries have a more comprehensive selection of reading matter.
There will be of course, that curse of humanity, a television or two and undoubtedly a brace of expensive computer games. But books? Unlikely.
I was extremely fortunate in my choice of parents. My father had a modest but eclectic library to which, as soon as learned how to care for books, I was allowed untrammelled access. From the age of ten onwards I could drift through the plays of Galsworthy, the burblings of Bernard Shaw, struggle to understand Shakespeare and occasionally come upon a gem that has stayed with me the rest of my life.
One such was P.G. Wodehouse and his recounting of the affairs of the Drones Club, ‘Young Men in Spats.’ At the time I had no idea what a spat was nor, for that matter, a drone but the stories amused and entertained me even at that early age. And, as I re-read them last night, they still do.
Once the basics of reading are mastered, all that is needed is the incentive to want to read.
For the price of a Nintendo or similar piece of electronic mind wasting equipment, a parent could equip their child with an extremely good library.
Then, perhaps, with encouragement, an enthusiasm for reading may result.
Those who can read and write have a whole world open to them that is denied the illiterate.
But the process begins at home, not in the classroom.


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