learning something or doing something productive?
Nicola Morgan had a little shot at Oxfam for suggesting that giving someone a book token was 'boring'. What Oxfam was, of course, trying to suggest was that giving someone you do not know a goat or gardening tools is more useful. It may or may not be. Giving someone a goat or gardening tools will only be useful if they know how to care for or use these things. These things are only going to happen if someone can 'read' in the widest possible sense of reading.
There is, of course, no point in giving someone a book unless they know how to read or someone can read it to them. Again, this has to be reading in the widest possible terms. Reading is about much more than recognising and making sense of the funny little squiggles on a page or screen. We 'read' constantly in order to make sense of the world around us.
As far as reading in the more traditional sense however I am getting the impression that, in some places, reading for pleasure is considered to be a waste of time. Certainly, reading for pleasure is not something you do at school. At school you read to learn. If you are not reading to learn you should be doing something productive. The same goes for after school activities. You should be doing sport, preferably something competitive and (most definitely) you need to be on the winning team. If you are not doing sport then you should be learning something else, an instrument perhaps. If you are doing that then you should be aiming to pass exams and perform in public. Then there are various youth organisations with levels and badges and challenges. All these things are aimed at doing, at learning, at performing, and at competing. It is all wildly important. "How many after-school activities does little Bobby manage to cram in?" and "Can your parents get a second car so that Jilly can do ballet while Anna does soccer and can you still get off early from work to take Robby to tennis coaching?" Children must not be left unattended for free play. They may waste time. They may not be learning something.
"Television? Oh that is different. They can eat while they watch television. Computer games? Well it is good for reaction times and manual dexterity and, anyway, that's something they all do."
"Read for pleasure? Well, no. It's really a waste of time isn't it? I mean, they aren't learning anything are they? The Harry Potter stuff? Well I suppose that was a bit different, you know the films and all that as well. It was different when I was a kid. We didn't have so much to do."
So, learning and doing are more important than reading a book? We can learn and do without reading? Why would anyone want to read when they could be kicking the winning goal? Isn't life all about kicking the winning goal? We're complete failures unless we manage to kick the winning goal and go on kicking the winning goals.
The problem is that very few of us will ever kick the winning goal - but, if we learn to read, we can be on the winning team .