With that bias in mind, the Church of the Open Road offers a modest proposal: It is a verifiable fact that young readers are more successful than non-readers. School folks know that in impoverished areas, students struggle with literacy more frequently than kids from well-off communities. Since early exposure to literature is a key to success as a reader and therefore, success in school, it follows that a book is a gift with far more potential for good than almost anything else one can receive.
So, what if, instead of a plastic toy requiring a battery or, perhaps, what if along with a plastic toy requiring a battery, the less-well-off in our communities received a brand new book? (And idea doesn’t just have to go for kids.) Here are a few thoughts on the benefits:
- Reading is an act of creativity. While a battery-powered toy prompts the child to watch what the toy does, a book prompts the child to create images based upon the stimulus of print. Unlike television or film or any of a number of other popular distractions, while a book is a creation of the author, the reader engages in a creative act by reading.
- Reading takes the reader places. While a computer game allows the player to travel through fantastic animation (and vanquish all who get in the way), a book can take a child around the world allowing him or her exposure to cultures and climates far different (and perhaps more fantastic) than their own.
- A good book never wears out. With a battery-powered toy, once the battery dies (on or about December 27th) unless the battery is replaced, the toy becomes less toy-like. A book can be opened and closed time and time again. It can be read and reread, sometimes the second reading reveals more than the first.
- Literature is easily recyclable. When the joystick busts or the player has finally outsmarted the game creator, the product is thrown away. It goes to the dump or, if we’re lucky, goes to a place where its toxins and heavy metals can be safely recovered. A book is recycled simply by handing it to the next person.
MOST FOLKS on the Church of the Open Road's shopping list, by now, know they’ll be receiving a bag o’ books for Christmas. Each of the books will be a copy of something I’ve read and with which I’ve been particularly impressed over the past 12 months. The collection may include some light, contemporary or classic fiction, perhaps an atlas or other resource, and, quite likely, a memoir or non-fiction work that broadened my understanding of our culture or the human condition.
The Church would like to think that each carefully selected book will be appreciated, but if not, the good news is that the book can be re-gifted to someone who may find worth or insight in the author’s work.
WHAT CAN YOU DO? Think about the best half-dozen books you’ve read over the past twelve months and consider passing copies to folks on your list this holiday season.
And for the kids across town? Think about the books you loved as a child and give copies of those. Some child you’ll never meet may grab your insight and your love of literature. And maybe they’ll have a better chance because of it.
Church of the Open Road Press