Tell Me It Isn’t So

(Photo by Gaelle Marcel-Unsplash)

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.

Change the world. Encourage reading. (photo by Ben White-Unsplash)

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!!!!!!

What was the first book that made an impact on you?

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About Barb

I escaped from a hardscrabble farm in Oklahoma. I'm not sure why people think I have an accent. I miss the sunshine, but not the fried foods.
This entry was posted in Appreciation, Change, Choices, Life, Literature, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

34 Responses to Tell Me It Isn’t So

  1. One of the books that had a huge impact on me was about sailors surviving WWII. that inspired at least in part my two thrillers.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can remember a couple of books that affected my “young” life, but it seems there are more books that have affected my “adult” life. Books about WW2 are definitely in that eye-opening category.

      Like

  2. nrhatch says:

    How peculiar. I can’t imagine not reading for pleasure. All of our nieces and nephews (most around 20 now) are voracious readers.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. dimple says:

    Winnie the Pooh. My mother read it to me. And The Little Red Hen (was that a whole book? It seems there were other stories between those same covers…). I remember a picture of me, 4 or 5 years old, with The Little Red Hen open on my lap.

    Like

    • Barb says:

      Remember the little Golden Books? As memory serves, they always had a moral point. I had to think about the Little Red Hen for a moment and wondered if she was the one who kept saying, they sky is falling. So I looked it up…nope. That was another chicken. The little red hen was a hard worker. I liked Winnie the Pooh, too. A lot of interesting characters in that one.

      Like

  4. Roxanna Matthews says:

    I don’t remember not reading. Summers at the cabin with no electricity and a big set of shelves full of books meant I read scads of stuff way over my head. I read the complete works of Shakespeare in 3rd grade. Didn’t understand all of it, but the pictures painted in my mind remain.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Good grief, What a horrifying turn of events. I can’t imagine not reading. I’m not positive, but I’m pretty sure I came out of the womb with a book in one hand and a flashlight in the other. (It’s dark in there!) Seriously, I can’t remember a time when I didn’t read, and each and every book has become a part of me. So to speak. I mean, I don’t have words written all over my body or anything…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Barb says:

      Now kids are born with Kindles out of the womb (used to be silver spoons in their mouths). I guess they don’t charge them, thus don’t read?

      Like

  6. Elyse says:

    That breaks my heart. So does the fact that I raised a non-reader.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Sr Jenny Adaryn says:

    Sweet Thursday by Steinbeck. Here were people not living by middle class rules and so very lovable. There was rich life beyond fundamentalism and conformity. I read books to Head Start kids now.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Margy says:

    I am as surprised as you that a young adult could get through school without having read a book from cover to cover! What does that say about education these days?
    The first book I remember from my childhood was ‘365 Bedtime Stories’ by Nan Gilbert – a story for every day of the year about the children on What-a-Jolly Street. I still have the book – it is 63 years old and it has one of the books I read to my children when they were young.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Barb says:

      What a great tradition. Of course, I had to look up the book, and it’s STILL in print. Funny how books are like old friends, just waiting on the shelf for your visit. I’m glad you’re keeping your “old friend” company.

      Like

  9. AAARGH.
    You really know how to depress and scare a girl don’t you? I don’t remember not reading. And I am glad. And stil average three or four books a week. Books are comfort, escape, education and joy.
    A work colleague had a stroke which took away her reading and writing ability. A disability which horrifies me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Barb says:

      Thank heavens for readers like you. I hope your colleague has discovered audible books (they used to be called Books on Tape, then they were called Books on CDs, now they’re called Audible e-books). There’s hope that we can still be reading long past our ability to see the words.

      Like

  10. RoseL says:

    My mom would drop me off at the library every Saturday for about 4 hrs and I would explore and read and discover things. It was safe then. She knew my love for the books then. I cannot imagine never reading, especially as a child! Sad. I would read books to my nieces and nephews and son when they were months old and up til they started reading on their own. So important! I remember reading books about animals at first, like BEAUTIFUL JOE, BLACK BEAUTY, FLICKA, ETC. In High school I loved Ray Bradbury!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Moma Escriva says:

    I remember going to our one-room library on NE 72nd and Fremont and checking out books when I was in grade school. But, it wasn’t until I was about 11 or 12 that I found and fell in love with a book entitled, Paint Box Summer. That set me off on a journey of reading. I have to admit that my reading took a nose dive after college and marriage with five little rug-rats (1-7 years of age) keeping me busy. But as they grew, so did my desire for books. As I go into my retirement, I find that I must be making up for those lean years because I can’t stop the flood of words pouring through my eyes, into my brain and finally into my soul.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Barb says:

      I’m so impressed that you always, always have one or two books going at the same time. I remember a list asking for hobbies, and I wrote “reading” because it used to be so rare to have any time to read if kids were around.

      Like

      • Barb says:

        Moma, You’ll be happy to know Paint Box Summer can be ordered from Amazon for only $98 dollars. Only 8 copies left.

        Like

        • Moma Escriva says:

          Yeah, I tried a few years ago to get a copy but wouldn’t pay the price. Guess other people must’ve liked it as well as I did.

          Like

  12. Alice Lynn says:

    I’m amazed and appalled! In your twenties and never read a book? Or having done so once and enjoying it, never again? I can’t even remember the first “real” book I read but remember my mom reading The Little House In The Big Woods to me before I started school. If I were to be on a deserted island forever, what would be a top priority? A book! Of course!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Ohh. That is painful. If parents read to children or expose them to libraries, I think they probably will read more. Not sure many parents are taking the time to read to kids. TV was the babysitter before computers/phones came along.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Barb says:

      Yes, I hate to sound like a technology-hater, but I’m pretty sure you’re right. And look at us, writing away, spending hours getting the words just so. Thank heavens for digital archives.

      Like

  14. I’m stunned that they didn’t read as a child. There are great children’s books out there. Didn’t their parents read to them? So many questions. Hope this is not typical.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Barb says:

      It would be an interesting study wouldn’t it? And yet, visiting with our local library director, she says usage increases every month, so that’s a hopeful trend.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Ellie Derrick says:

    Hi Barb, I can’t imagine my life without reading books. The first good impression I had of a book was Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I named my daughter after the character Amy, though, she became a much more independent woman, more like Jo. My favorite summer memory when I was in school was going to the bookmobile and checking out a whole stack of books, then laying under a tree in the backyard of my parents home and reading them. Ellie D

    Liked by 1 person

    • Barb says:

      When I think of reading-memories being under a tree in the summer or under a blanket on the couch in the winter comes to mind. Maybe that’s the trick to getting kids to read? Put them under something…a tent, a desk, a table?

      Like

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