Thursday, January 25, 2007

Al Mohler on literacy and reading

Fresh on the heels of yesterday's post about great children's literature (which has generated great comments and lists of books), I find this post from Al Mohler about the importance of literacy and interacting with good books -- here the quintessential quote:

"Do our own young people read books? Do they know the pleasures of the solitary reading of a life-changing page? Have they ever lost themselves in a story, framed by their own imaginations rather than by digital images? Have they ever marked up a page, urgently engaged in a debate with the author? Can they even think of a book that has changed the way they see the world . . . or the Christian faith? If not, why not?"

Dr. Mohler interacts with an article in the Washington Post from a school librarian lamenting students' hesitancy, indeed resistance, to reading. Here's a story from the article that makes me wince:

I recently spoke with a junior who was stressed about her decreasing ability to focus on anything for longer than two minutes or so. I tried to inspire her by talking about the importance of reading as a way to train the brain. I told her that a good reader develops the same powers of concentration that an athlete or a Buddhist would employ in sport or meditation. "A lot out there is conspiring to distract you," I said.

She rolled her eyes. "That's your opinion about books. It doesn't make it true." To her, the idea that reading might benefit the mind was, well, lame.

A library's neglected shelves reveal the demise of something important, especially for young readers starved for meaning -- for anything profound. Still, I'm not ready to throw in the towel just yet. I'm turning the new-arrivals shelf into a main attraction in my school's library. Recently I stood Charles Dickens's "Bleak House" next to the DVD version produced by the BBC. Lady Dedlock (Gillian Anderson) graced both covers. A senior fingered the DVD for a minute, then turned it over to read the blurb. "The book is too long," she said. "Is the movie any better?"

"You're right. The book is long," I said. "But once you start this one, you won't be
able to put it down, right from that first page about the London fog."

"I think I'll watch the DVD," the student said.

Admittedly, Bleak House is a mammoth tome -- over 1000 pages (it's my goal to finish it this year -- a great story, but I have many irons in the fire) -- I'm not sure I'd have started there with a teenager. Even so, the story is revealing. I covet your thoughts.

Soli Deo Gloria