Listening to the radio last week, I heard an item about how little children of today read. As always, sweeping statements like that are best accompanied by a spoonful of salt and yet, there is evidence that reading is less common a pastime these days. The point of the radio feature I came across was that teenagers are acting as reading mentors for the under 10s, encouraging them to lose themselves in a book.
This isn’t going to turn into a rant against the internet which may or may not have supplanted the paperback, but it did make me think how lucky I was that Mum planted in me a love of books. I’m not sure my wife will entirely agree:
“If you’re going to buy more books, you’ll have to get rid of some….”.
Mum read to me every night when I was small, and as soon as I was ready, I started reading for myself. I’ve barely not had at least one book on the go since. I remember my joy at realising, at the age of six, that the Sunday tea-time television series Little Women was an adaptation of a novel which I could read. I fell in love with the lead character Jo and with reading at the same time.
c. BBC Television, Little Women 1970.
One of the saddest aspects of Mum’s creeping dementia in its early stages was the realisation that she was no longer reading. Mum had always, but always, had a book on the go but as she could no longer remember what she’d read, that pleasure was lost. She never really spoke about it but I know how much she missed her daily reads.
I’ll never take reading for granted. The quotation at the start of this post – from the Canadian poet R.D. Cumming, is incomplete:
“A good book has no ending.”
That’s another thought that dementia dismantles.