Thursday, 22 March 2012

I love to read...

I read the other day that it's the National Year of Reading, and thought ho, hum.  I love to read.

But then on the year website ( I was shocked to read the following:

Nearly half the population struggles without the literacy skills to meet the most basic demands of everyday life and work. There are 46% of Australians who can't read newspapers; follow a recipe; make sense of timetables, or understand the instructions on a medicine bottle.

I knew that indigenous literacy is an issue but hadn't realised how widespread the problem was in the broader community.  I know many migrants, particularly older ones and those from countries were schooling is not available also have problems, but the figure 46% is staggering.

I was lucky.  Somehow I had taught myself to read by the time I started school and was soon taken by a neighbour's child to join the local library.  The 'Children's Library' that is.  Where hands were inspected for cleanliness, and where  I was permitted to borrow 2 books at a time.  A new world opened.  Most of the children's books at that time were set in England but somehow my mind seemed to skip over the differences as I entered these new realms that opened up before me.  Animal tales, adventures, school stories, fairies, witches, fantasy...books about strange places, encyclopedias containing everything about everything, dictionariesAll stimulated my imagination, thirst to understand how and why, and provided a colourful environment that a rigid school system couldn't give.

And through the years reading has continued to give me great pleasure.  Whenever I've moved somewhere new one of my first tasks has been to locate and join the local library.  In London I even belonged to the library that then existed at Harrods!  And I've joined the electronic age with an e-reader which is wonderful when I travel, as I no longer have to carry a case full of books so have more room for shopping.  

I can't imagine a house without books and I can't imagine not having at least one book by my bed.  Sometimes I have two or three on the go at once.  These days I mostly read what could be described as literary fiction, mysteries, a bit of 'chick lit', travellers' tales and biographies.  More and more I find I'm reading about the experiences of children and women living in different countries, both novels and biographies, and often in translation.  I suspect this is a result of travel, which only touches the surface leaving me wondering about day to day life.  

I read for enjoyment, and if I can't 'get into' a book I'll give up, sometimes returning at another time.  I read for escape when life is stressed.  I read when I have spare time: flying and holidays. 

And when I've enjoyed a book, I love to pass it on, either the book itself, or if it's a library book, then the recommendation.  Many of my friends are readers, and our tastes often overlap. Not identical, but with enough in common so that we can share the enjoyment.

But to go back to that comment that 46% of Australians can't read sufficiently to meet the needs of everyday life.  Not only are they closed from a world of pleasure, the ability to gain basic information is also absent, making them dependent on others, relying on memory, being cut off from something that the other 54% of us take for granted.

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