The lost art of reading

Due to it being students’ association election season, over the past two weeks I have been talking to a few people about student politics. In particular how to debate, articulate a point of view and campaign. During these discussions I have explained that one of the key methods of articulating a point is to use references from common culture, and in particular with debates, you often quote literature with a slight spin. However, from these discussions it has become clear just how few people these days are up to play with what I would consider well known texts, such as: Alice in Wonderland, Shakespeare, The Chronicles of Narnia, etc.

This is rather sad, but it gets worse. On Tuesday night I saw the movie adaptation of John Marsden’s Tomorrow When the War Began. Out of the four people I saw it with I was the only one who had read the book (indeed the whole series) as a child. Last year, Maurice Gee’s Under the Mountain was also adapted into a movie and again few people had read the book. What is happening? Sure one could argue the likes of Harry Potter and Twilight are providing the next generation with the reading and imagination skills they need. However, I think there is more at play here than just a generational gap. The likes of Alice in Wonderland, Shakespeare and less so Narnia are full of nonsense verse and other wonders of English. This is missing from modern texts. Furthermore there is nothing better than falling down a rabbit hole, exiting your imagination through a cupboard and then pricking yourself to make sure you still bleed.

Post high school I am reading less Fiction and more non-fiction, mainly popular science and sociology type books. However, the key is I still read. I also read blogs and way too many status updates on Facebook and Twitter. However, the digital environment is not a replacement for books and is a great time waster which I believe is collectively lowering our literature IQ. Last week I purchased a novel, the first novel I have bought in a very long time. However, I had to buy it because the author is a good friend of mine. I am referring to The Fallen by Ben Sanders. Ben is a 3rd year, civil engineering student and at just 20 years of age has written an adult crime novel and subsequently gone number one on the best-sellers list in NZ.  What strikes me most about the book is not the story, hell it is good and you should buy it, but the dedication at the start:

“This book is dedicated to my parents who always made me read.”

Isn’t it time we all started to read again, not only it provides us with an escape from real life; it also improves our imagination, understanding and all round communication skills. Plus it provides us with new quotes to famously spin in the future.