In this age of text messaging, twitter and face-book chats, reading seems to be on the decline. Some may even say this is an understatement. There now seems to be less patience and more desire for letting others know what we know or feel than to seek to know what the other person knows. We ignore this insidious emergence in our midst as a part of the dynamics of our modern lifestyle and just let it be at that. But this subtle change is happening to us all unsuspectingly, and as we get mired in this attitude of impatience, and vanity, there seems to be time only for the ego, and no time for the soul. Even privacy is now in short supply and thus the mystery and intrigue so central to writing seems also lost in this race for temporary highs and moments of glory that seems to epitomize present social behavior. The one hundred-and forty characters that twitter accomodates, and the terse and stirred up language of the comment columns in our on-line newsletters don’t cut the measure of what we can call reading and learning. We become more street-smart perhaps and are able to drop a wise quip now and then or know what everybody else knows (because everybody is reading the same stuff), but deeper knowledge about ourselves as human elements and the world around us beyond just the political is left untapped. It is through a deeper analysis that regular reading provides that we understand the profoundness that predicates our behaviors and where insights for the solutions to our social problems of today lie.
It is easy to gain knowledge from just listening to others – through discussions, lectures, seminars and such, but the good thing about reading is that we tend to let our guard down when we read something, for the printed page is often not as intimidating to our egos as the raw human being giving opinions. Thus, this relaxed frame of mind helps us assimilate the views and lessons in the text much more easily than when it comes in conversation. Whenever one human being speaks to another, this human presence always raises that ego barrier that questions the message given based on our pre-formed assumptions. Thus the power of the written material is evident. We have all lapped up the quotes, the data and the figures we take from technical papers and other printed information sources –even from daily newspaper columns – as authentic with little question, and we use these then to bolster our views when we have an opinion to make.
The question for us as parents and as a community is how to get our youth more into the habit of reading and for them to discover this lost or submerging treasure trove of humanity’s lessons in it for us. One way is for parents to set the example of delving into bookshops and actively seeking to re-awaken this slumbering delight of their old school days that lies dormant for the time since. Another is to find both conventional and non-conventional approaches to encouraging reading in schools. And yet another is for social groups to make inroads into this important area of nurturing the young mind through book clubs, book review sessions, or encouraging and celebrating young authors -- to harvest the potential out there for the benefit of a socially enlightened posterity. Only what we plant today with wisdom can we sow tomorrow.