As I was in the grocery story recently I noticed Oprah Winfrey’s recent issue of her O magazine. Actually it was a byline that caught my attention. The line was “O’s Summer Reading List”. That is one aspect of Oprah I have always appreciated is her steady support of reading. It reminded me that reading is often promoted during the Summer months. As I have stated before I was always involved with the Summer Reading Programs at my hometown library in Barberton, Ohio from second grade on up. Those programs helped shape me into becoming a Bookhead.
As I see fewer and fewer College students reading or even complaining about reading I believe it is important to keep promoting the importance of reading. In the lounge areas of campus you used to see students with books open now they just sit there blankly staring at the screens of their ipads with headphones on. As I glance at the screens there is often some type of video or movie playing. I think to myself what are we creating for the future. For the most part a continual diet of videos perpetuates a passive mind as the mind is simply soaking in the sounds and images. Reading text forces the mind to be active in seeking meaning and builds creativity as the mind has to create the images being described instead of being spoon fed the images via video.
Pondering what I see in people addicted to staring at their plastic video screens caused me to ponder what if society lost literacy and reading altogether. A movie I had seen some time ago then popped into my mind. I watched it again as I was thinking over the importance of reading. The movie is The Book of Eli. It is R rated as it has some graphic violence, so it is not a movie for small children but it is good for the older viewer to think through human nature and I found important concepts related to reading in it.
In the movie Eli, played by Denzel Washington is on a mission given to him by a mystical vision to carry a copy of the King James Bible out West to a destination unknown to him. It is based in the future after a great war that has decimated the country and the world. In his travels he comes to a town that is run by a despotic controlling man named Carnegie and his thug henchmen. Eli stops to get a rare commodity in a bar – water. After a fight scene the despot ruler of the town understands there is something different about Eli.
Carnegie is a collector of books and he is looking for a copy of the Bible as they were all burned after the war but he knows a supposedly one copy still existed. He is looking for the Bible as he feels it will give him power and control over people. It is clearly seen that this ruler of the town is the only one who can read. His thugs that look for books in their illiteracy think it is foolish to just be looking for books. Carnegie discerns that Eli can read and a short interlude between them speaks volumes to the importance of reading:
Carnegie “Do You read?”
Carnegie “People like you and me are the future”
The two of them were the only two in the town who could read. The town was brutish and full of savagery. Is that how life would be without literacy? The movie shows the human nature conflict between Carnegie in his quest to get the The Bible from Eli once he finds out Eli has it. There is much to be learned about human nature and good and evil as Carnegie wants the book for controlling purposes and Eli humbly on a mission, wants to get the book to somewhere out West to it’s rightful destination.
Back to the three line conversation that spoke to me. In promoting reading we need to show young people the importance of reading for their future. Readers are building the creative and critical thinking skills needed for the future. The best way to promote reading is to read ourselves. Then we can also encourage others to read. In using this movie I do see the importance in other media. Yet back to the concept of the passive mind versus the active mind. I have observed even in myself, that when I am watching a movie unless it is a documentary my mind is definitely more passive that when I am reading.
So as you go through this Summer make reading a part of it. Then remember reading doesn’t end with Summer make it a year round activity. Support your local books stores and local libraries.
Reflection: What book or books are you reading this Summer? Why is reading important for our lives and society?