Because you don’t have to burn books if the world starts to fill up with nonreaders, nonlearners, nonknowers

16 Apr

I decided to read Fahrenheit 451. I got the 40th anniversary edition with a new foreword by the author, Ray Bradbury. I always liked this little glimpse to the author’s mind. Bradbury, however, gave me more than I would’ve expected. Here’s what he wrote:

(…) a prediction that my Fire Chief, Beatty, made in 1953, halfway through my book. It had to do with books being burned without matches or fire. Because you don’t have to burn books, do you, if the world starts to fill up with nonreaders, nonlearners, nonknowers? If the world wide-screen-basketballs and -footballs itself to drown in MTV, no Beattys are needed to ignite the kerosene or hunt the reader. If the primary grades suffer meltdown and vanish through the cracks and ventilators of the schoolroom, who, after a while, will know or care?

All is not lost, of course. There is still time if we judge teachers, students, and parents, hold them accountable on the same scale, if we truly test teachers, students, and parents, if we make everyone responsible for quality, if we insure that by the end of its sixth year every child in every country can live in libraries to learn almost by osmosis, then our drug, street-gang, rape, and murder scores will suffer themselves near zero. But the Fire Chief, in mid-novel, says it all, predicting the one-minute TV commercial with three images per second and no respite from the bombardment. Listen to him, know what he says, then go sit with your child, open a book, and turn the page.

I couldn’t agree more. What good is it to have books and not read them? I never understood people who say they don’t like to read. It makes no sense at all to me. It’s like saying you don’t like to breathe.

I’ve heard kids saying they don’t like to read. I can understand that. But that’s only because they haven’t found the right books yet. We all go through reading books we don’t like, but for little kids, because reading is a skill they have not yet mastered, they struggle more. They don’t know yet what genre they like, and they are not well equipped to understand all that’s in between the lines. They can only see what’s on the surface. They haven’t learned to look at a book with critical eyes and see what’s not so obvious.

Adults, however, have the skill to analyze a book, to get the hidden meaning of it, to use it as a tool to make them ponder about bigger issues. Adults have the ability to discern what they do or do not like about a book, and they understand the true value of it.

So go, grab a book and read it. Go to your local library or bookstore and get a new book. Set a goal for yourself to read a certain amount of books and do it. A book a month? A book a week? A chapter a day? It doesn’t matter. What really matters is to read something. And if you need recommendations, ask the librarian, ask the internet, ask me. There are millions of books out there just waiting to be discovered, to be devoured.

“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” Ray Bradbury (photo courtesy of pcorreia)


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8 responses to “Because you don’t have to burn books if the world starts to fill up with nonreaders, nonlearners, nonknowers

  1. GJ Scobie

    April 16, 2012 at 5:24 am

    Enjoyed reading this. I think as adults it is our duty to try and encourage everyone to read more. Great post. I read this book many years ago. I think I may just go back to it now 🙂

  2. Valerie King Books

    April 16, 2012 at 7:04 am

    What an awesome post! Love this. Tremendously. 🙂

  3. 300poundsdown

    April 18, 2012 at 8:31 am

    My mom was a librarian and I grew up around books. I taught middle school English for awhile and quickly understood why so many kids think that they hate to read. It’s not really reading they hate. It’s the books that other people pick out for them and then force upon them. Saying this is good literature. You have to like it! The truth is that not every 7th grader can pick up Great Expectations and have it fuel the love for reading lol. I think what you said perfectly nailed it on the head. They don’t know their genre yet! We don’t force people to only watch a certain type of movie. But with books we tend to give kids lists and say “read only this”. I love this post b/c reading is near and dear to my heart. And the more you read, the more you learn!

    • RedheadCarol

      April 18, 2012 at 1:24 pm

      Exactly. Children need someone to act as a guide, someone who will light their way through the dark hallways of this unknown world that can only be discover and enjoyed through the act of reading. They do not need dictators telling them what or when to read. They need guidance and inspiration.
      Thank you for your comment. I appreciate it.


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