In the Company of Books

David Brooks is easily one of my favorite columnists. This column on the power of books is tremendous. It emphasizes the need to read. Real books help. (We can have the debate of ebooks vs. hard copies as well.) The point is: READ.

We already knew, from research in 27 countries, that kids who grow up in a home with 500 books stay in school longer and do better. This new study suggests that introducing books into homes that may not have them also produces significant educational gains.

I wish I could say that 100 percent true, but it’s not. Our home has easily 1000 volumes and it hasn’t seem to have made a difference in my own boys. I grew up in a home where we didn’t have many books at all, and consumed them voraciously through school and public libraries.

But there was one interesting observation made by a philanthropist who gives books to disadvantaged kids. It’s not the physical presence of the books that produces the biggest impact, she suggested. It’s the change in the way the students see themselves as they build a home library. They see themselves as readers, as members of a different group.

When we finally get the nerve up to pick up a book and read, we truly enter a different world. It’s different than the internet experience. It’s different than videos. It’s different than gaming. It’s a world of imagination. And it’s far more imagination than just watching someone else do a phenomenal job with video in a movie.

We’ve come to a point where the child’s imagination just doesn’t come into play anymore. I work part time at Sears and just get aggravated that there is a video game of Legos! Really? We can’t just put Legos together anymore and imagine a battle scene? No! We need to put the Lego figure into a video and make it do cool stuff!

Reading steps us into a place where our brains must be engaged. The more we read, the higher we climb. As Brooks points out, it takes years. The beautiful thing about reading is there is always time to grow. I can move from a “beach read” book to a deep theological work in my progression. I can pace myself. I can quicken my pace. I can force myself to pick up my vocabulary rate.

You can’t do that in video. You have to wait for the next generation of gaming to come out. You depend on someone else to invent the newest and greatest thing. You have to wait for Steve Jobs and his geniuses to bring out the next big i-invention.

Not so in reading. Great books await. They have been written. They are still being written. The climbing rate is up to us.

But, that is too hard. It is far easier to whine about a stupid video game and yell at the company for making an “inferior” product. We can yell at the movie screen because the video effects are so lame. (But did WE go learn how to do it better? NO. It’s much easier to sit and just whine.)

Grab some books. Read. Take in the amazing world around you. Take in the amazing history that brought you to this point. Pick up and read.

3 thoughts on “In the Company of Books

  1. “There is no Frigate like a Book
    To take us Lands away,
    Nor any Coursers like a Page
    Of prancing Poetry –
    This Traverse may the poorest take
    Without oppress of Toll –
    How frugal is the Chariot
    That bears a Human soul.”

    – Emily Dickinson

  2. I remember as a kid, going to the library most every weekend to rent out several books to bring home, the challenge was to read many books and get my name up on the wall among others (in the library), a contest of sorts. It was like being a part of a different group of kids, that all liked to read and be proud of it.

    Going from picture books by Dr. Seuss to chapter books of authors like Jack London, Mark Twain, John Steinbeck, Jim Kjelgaard and then the big ones from Charles Dickens, Robert Louis Stevenson including fables from Grimm, Aesop, Kipling was the best adventures I went on!!

    It was cool to see the books I started to buy in Junior and Senior High my library collection at home – mystery novels from Agatha Christie and horror stories from Stephen King for example.

    Now many years later, shifting to theology books, philosophy books, travel journals from Henry Rollins and all the classics, I agree there is no other pleasure out there than to read a good book. It makes my mind go to places and think of things I have yet to discover.

    I think my son and daughter are fortunate being raised in a home that likes to read, and they have built up their own collection along the way.

    thanks for the blog here, Pastor Dan. (and yes the debate between ebooks and hard copies is at another time!!).

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