American Elephants

Books, Books, Books by The Elephant's Child
November 30, 2022, 8:36 pm
Filed under: Politics

I don’t have a good feel for the extent to which we respond to the news, or what we read online. And I’m not really sure about how much what people read actually influences their behavior and interests and actions. I am a major reader. I have a house filled with books, probably way too many, but I have read them all, and most, more than once.

My father’s older sister always sent him the best books of the year for birthdays and Christmas, and I read them all. Our closest town was nine miles away, and a very small town, probably around 800 or so people. But it had two grocery stores, a bank, lumber yard, hardware store, drug store, doctor’s office, dentist’s office, jewelry store, and of course the court house, as it was a county seat. There was a grade school, and a high school, and none of those facilities had a library, including the schools, or a book store. Only the drug store carried a small selection of what my dad called “Blood and Thunders”, (Westerns) and he may well have been the only purchaser. I read all of those too.

In Boise, the State Capitol, there was no public library, the two small department stores carried no books. There was no book store.The State of Idaho had a “traveling library” in the basement of the capitol building. I’d borrow a huge stack, and mail them back by train. Boise was 100 miles away, and we usually didn’t make more than one trip a year. That can be accurately described as “growing up rural”.

The advent of computers has changed rural areas as well as cities, and the world has shifted some. I haven’t been home for a long time, but I’d be surprised if much as changed. It’s not a part of the country where books and reading are common or important. But then even in college, lots of my fellow students struggled with the amount of reading that was required.

I have never seen a report on how successful American schools are in turning out readers. I know that many kids who had difficulty in learning to read, not because of any self-deficiency, but because they did not value the idea of learning to read, and resisted as much as possible, somehow were not forced to learn. Whether that came from a family that did not read much or did not value the ability to read well, the familial attitude towards reading, I don’t know. I presume that to some extent it is passed down in families. If American schooling is to be successful in creating a highly educated populace, we need some kind of deep appreciation for the act of learning to read well. I just do not think that has happened, at least in those families that do not especially appreciate books and knowledge in the first place.

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