So a few days ago, I’m at the post office mailing three packages. The twenty-plus-year-old behind the counter asks the usual question. “Anything perishable, fragile, etc. etc.?”
“Nope. Only books,” I say.
She stops and looks at the size of the packages, then the addresses, asking with a confused face, “How many books?”
“Five different books in each package.”
“Really? Going all over the U.S.?”
“Yes. Is that a problem?”
“No. No.” She continues weighing and smacking boxes with stickers and tallying my fees. “It’s just that you’re sending so many books, and I didn’t even read a book cover-to-cover until I was twenty-five years old.”
I try to keep my face under control. “How did you get through—”
She doesn’t even let me finish the question. “Movies. I learned real quick to only use the original version of a movie. Those new versions—they’ve added stuff, then the teacher knew.”
“Okay,” I say, “I’ve got to know, what was the book that finally got you to the last page?”
“Oh, I don’t remember the title. It was just something lying around my Grandmother’s house. I was working at a distribution company, and our work was done by noon. I had to sit there the rest of the day with nothing to do. So I found a book at her house. I picked it because of the red cover. The only reason I read it was because I was bored to death.”
I ask if she remembers the plot. She does. It was a historical murder mystery. She enjoyed it.
“So now you’re a fan of murder mysteries?”
“No. I haven’t read a book since.”
The young man in line behind me edges close, clearly wanting to join the conversation. He butts in, “I know just what you mean. I never read a book until I was twenty-eight.”
Oh, tell me this isn’t so. Again, I’m trying to hold my face in neutral. He’s in a dress shirt and slacks. Both of these folks are native English-speakers and appear to have jobs in which reading is a necessity . Two people in the same afternoon? How common is this non-reading thing? So, I ask him the same question. “What was the book you finally read cover-to-cover?”
“Game of Thrones. I watched the TV series and just had to read the books.”
Two days later and I’m still flabbergasted by this exchange. How could these young folks have gotten to their late twenties never reading a whole book?
And I ask myself, “Well, when did you read your first “real” book? Nine—ten? I spent hours in our local library, waiting for Mom to get off work and helping The Boxcar Children survive another mystery. I still love doing research for novels, meandering among the stacks, sitting on tile floors to inspect the spines on the bottom row, hoping to find a long-forgotten treasure. Maybe my interests would’ve turned out differently if I’d had a phone to distract me back then instead of a book. Who knows?
The month of May kicks off The Great American Read program sponsored by Public Broadcasting. Across our nation, folks will vote on their most beloved book. I hope you’ll vote, too. I think it might help our country if we encouraged reading more than tweets, texts, and facebook.
Consider Making Reading YOUR THING this month
- Give books for Mother’s Day.
- Gift a special book for graduation
- Pick out your summer reading now, so it’s on your shelf, waiting for your free moments.
- Revisit old favorites you love. They’re even better the second time around.
Perhaps I shouldn’t draw conclusions about young people and reading based on such a small data sample. But I left the post office, asking both of the twenty-somethings to keep searching for that next book, telling them, “There’s a book out there that’ll change your world.”
I truly believe that.
Thanks for reading!!!!!!