Before I write today's blog, just a quick comment on my own personal "media ban". A number of people have asked me how it's all going, so I'll give you a quick heads up. Last Friday I ceased all interaction with the news media, as an experiment. After six days of ABSOLUTELY NO NEWS, I can report this. I think I may have stumbled upon one of the greatest ideas ever. I did it, as an experiment, to try to stop the never-ending negativity of the news from messing with my head, but it has quickly become more than just a media fast. I have given up television almost completely (except for my beloved volleyball of course).
What I have discovered is I have so much more productive time on my hands. Time to read, time to interact with other authors on social media and most important, time to work on my own personal development. It truly has been a revelation. Often I would visit other Author's websites and promise myself I would return and read their stuff at a later date - but, of course, I never did. Now, I have the time and I do read and I do learn so much from them. It's really great.
It is true that I don't know if China have invaded or not! Maybe they have, but their troops just haven't made it to Novaliches yet. Oh well, I'l deal with that when they arrive. Don't forget to message me if something big does happen - The Second Coming, or something of that magnitude. Will keep you informed of my ongoing progress.
This whole discussion came about because my wife and I made a conscious decision a few months ago to not give our grandchildren toys anymore for their birthdays and for Christmas, but to give them books instead. Although no-one actually said it out loud, I could definitely sense a feeling that books were not seen as such a great gift. The prevailing attitude seems to range from; "Books, oh, they're so last century." to "If someone wants information these days, all they need to do is 'Google' it."
That got me to thinking, was there still a place for books in today's electronic, information age. My daughter, who is no slouch in the brains department, often comes to me and asks me for information on something - even before she will try to 'Google it'. She said to me one day; "How come you know so much about things?" I remember just smiling and saying something along the lines of; "Because I read so much." The more I thought about it, the more I realized just how true that was. Most of my base knowledge about the world was gained from two sources; books and stamp collecting (as a child). Stamp collecting gave me a great geographical overview of the world and a base knowledge of nations and where they sat in the world, both physically and geopolitically. Whenever I discovered a stamp from a country I wasn't aware of, I would invariably hunt up our good, old encyclopedias and check it out - absorbing some useful information about the country and its people at the same time.
I do sense a frustration among young people today that they are required to specialize so much, in their education and in their employment that they don't have an opportunity to gain a broader knowledge of the world and life in general. Reading widely will give them that. This, of course, is a great argument against the current trend among higher education providers to remove pure humanity courses from their curriculum and focus instead on the sciences and task oriented education - but that argument is for another day.
Having said that, acquiring a broad base knowledge is not the major reason for reading books - it is a byproduct, albeit a very useful and rewarding byproduct. In my mind there are two critical reasons why one, we should impress on our children the importance of reading books and two, why we as adults should never abandon the reading of books in favor of the instant gratification offered by the internet and it like.
It is certainly true that for a time, as a child, I didn't even have a television to watch, let alone a smartphone, a tablet, or the internet - these were still all just fantasy dreams of the future. The time you now spend on the internet, texting or chatting on your phone, or watching television; we spent playing games with our friends (in person), bike-riding, building tree huts in the neighborhood bush, playing sport etc etc. We had the same amount of leisure time and options as you have now - we just had different ones; and yet some of us still found time to read widely and well.
One of the problems of our modern world is that our children appear to have even shorter attention spans than before - it has spawned a whole new industry of child psychologists and mood altering drugs. I won't pretend that reading is the answer to all of our children's ills, but I am certain that a child who is encouraged to read and read often from a very early age will have a much more focused and disciplined mind than would otherwise be the case. I'm certainly not trying to minimize in any way the real issues some parents do have with their children, but I do question how valid some of the diagnoses can be.
I have to admit to being a bit of an "old wet blanket" on this particular one but when I see one and two year old children playing with Ipads and smartphones, I shudder. I truly struggle to see what development skills any child will get from doing this. Now, I know many people would disagree on me in this, but I guess we'll just have to agree to differ. In my mind, introducing technology that young is abrogating your parental responsibilities - unless of course you are doing it together using interactive learning software, but as a way to just "shut your child up", I find it unsatisfactory.
One thing I know for a certainty - I have never been bored, depressed, lonely, sad or upset when I've spent a few hours just reading. Isn't that reason enough to give it a try?
Books truly are our windows on the world and on our fantasies and dreams.
From just one Author to all the potential readers out there:
READ A BOOK! BUY A BOOK! GIVE A BOOK!