Saturday, June 26, 2010

Book Famine.

Shawn and I have been talking a lot about reading. It's something I've valued for as long as I can remember, but it's also something I've taken for granted. Is that possible? What I mean is that I have enjoyed reading since before I knew how to read. But I don't remember ever considering it as a resource that many in the world had little to no access to. I've known clean water to be a severe problem. I've known food is not abundant in much of the world. I've known shelter to be less than sufficient. I've even known the scarcity of Bibles in many parts of the world. But the accessibility to any kind of book? Really?

But even after I realized this, I did not see the full impact of this "book famine." Is that a terrible term? I don't know how else to describe it. Now that I am teaching in a secondary school, I cannot get away from the contrast between the few students who have found a way to love reading and those who haven't. I phrase it like this because here at New Hope our schools do have small libraries, but they are underused and under-stocked. The selection is limited.
Adults here rarely pick up a book for pleasure. Who has time to read to children? Remember, this is an oral culture, and there is value in this historic tradition. But oral literature cannot replace written literature. I'm convinced of this! Possibilities multiply exponentially the moment books are 1. accessible, and 2. valued/appreciated/READ.

Everywhere you travel here, you see children playing football. It's beautiful, because you know that for those moments, all worries and troubles melt away. Football has its benefits: it strengthens the physical body, builds commraderie, and provides an outlet for frustration and anger. But in general, football will not help these children build their future. It will not sharpen their minds, encourage them to think critically or create new ideas. It will not challenge them to stand up for justice or overcome adversity or live courageously with integrity. The reading of books, however, can encourage these and more.

What if we could travel throughout the countryside here and find just as many children reading under the shade of a tree as we do playing football? What if children carried books with them to collect water, so that when they are standing in line waiting for their turn at the well, they could read just a few more chapters? What if children used those few shillings to buy a candle to help them read late into the night rather than using that money to sneak off to the dirt-floored discos and cinemas? What if our children here actually learned how to play that ubiquitous children's game called "pretend"? Imagine.

So. Those are my rambling thoughts. What are yours?

How would you label a "campaign" for reading?


Anonymous said...

First of all I am so glad to know you have a blog =) second I have no idea what you would "label" it, but we should talk about this. Ever since I worked with inner city elementary school students who couldn't even read Dick and Jane books, I have had an increased passion for literacy! Tiff and I had a good discussion about ways to practically build the library, but that was a week or two before she left. Alair

thezsfamily said...

First of all how did you not know we have a blog? :-) Second we should definitely talk. Good thing you live so close :-)

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