No more reading, writing, or ‘arithmetic.

I heard a disturbing story recently.

High school children actively avoid reading.

A teacher of humanity courses in an upscale, white collar neighborhood told me that he stopped assigning reading because his students told him they don’t have time to read. Instead, Teacher set aside time in the classroom for them to read.

Students told Teacher that they don’t read then, either. They would rather sit in front of the page, staring at the words, feigning reading, turning pages, and pretending to read.

My grandson shocked me when he said,

“G-Mom, I can’t read what you write in my birthday card. We don’t learn cursive anymore.”

Although this evolution makes me sad, I content myself by remembering how hard it was for me to make out the words of the Declaration of Independence in the original document. Okay, everyone knows how to use a keyboard now. Most kids have that skill before they enter kindergarten.

When calculators became ubiquitous, Dad did calculations by hand to check the calculator results. Now we do the opposite. Some higher math skills are not even hammered out with a paper and pencil.

CoCo hardly knows how to read the face of the clock. How will she know when she has just five minutes to get to where she’s going without this skill? I wondered. Somehow, she manages to be on time with only the help of a digital read-out.

Still… No reading? I know that YouTube is a great place to learn how to do things. TedTalks are great for sharing ideas and deep thoughts. I like audiobooks. But, no reading?

Reading gives us such variety and depth of thought.

To illustrate, I decided to pull books from my shelf and share a randomly selected quote:


Ricky was "L" but he's home with the flu.
Lizzie, our "O," had some homework to do,
Mitchell, "E" prob'ly got lost on the way,
So I'm [V] is all of love that could make it today.

Shel Silverstein (Where the Sidewalk Ends)

“No, I won’t go either. No use in dragging oneself over forty miles for a spoonful of cranberry sauce. Mathieu wants to show off before us in all his glory. To the devil with him! It’ll be enough if the whole province will burn incense to him–he’ll get along without ours…”

Ivan Sergheievich Turgenev, Fathers and Sons

Prince is one smart dog. He already knows how to stay and fetch. He’s tan and black, sorta like Butch was, like maybe they had a relative somewhere in their past. But Prince is taller and he’s thicker in the chest and his muzzle is broader. Daddie says Butch was a purebred and Prince is a Heinz-57 variety, which means he’s like us, nobody can say for certain where we come from.

Adela Crandell Durkee, A Ship of Pearl (a novel)

On days like this, when the sun beat mercilessly and the sky pulsed a clear blue the hurt her eyes, she would look to the horizon where the color softened and wonder at the vastness of it all, how there might be billions and billions of galaxies bumping around out there.

Christine Rice, Swarm Theory (a novel)
I would not hang a dog by my will, much more a man who hath any honesty in him.

William Shakespeare ("Much Ado About Nothing")

..Yolanda King was six years old when her father told her the truth about the amusement park and the white order that kept her outside the fence looking in. Always looking into that other world. Elwood was six when his parents took off and he thought, that’s another thing tying him to her, because that’s when he woke to the world.

Colson Whitehead, The Nickel Boys (a novel)

According to Stephen King’s book On Writing, if we are to be serious writers, we must also be avid readers. The more we read, the better writers we become. Even reading mediocre writing helps us discern, helps us improve, helps us envision. Can we do that without reading the written page? And, who’s going to read the audio books and scripts, if we lose our ability to read?

“Pretty fu*king melodramatic, right?”

Stephen King, the short story, “The Body” (in the collection Different Seasons)

What do you think?