Monday, 27 December 2010

There was a Christmas tree

in the atrium of our shopping centre. It had tags on it suggesting gifts for people in need. There were things like "lunch" at the adjacent coffee shop, a ticket to a film at the cinema, a gift from the toiletries at the chemist, a toy from the wonderful toyshop a bit further down the mall.

The Christmas tree was also adjacent to the local bookshop but nowhere on the tree did it suggest buying a book. The volunteer sitting by the tree kept telling people that they did not recommend books.
The owner of the bookshop heard of this and 'phoned the charity in question. Why were they saying this? Well "the people we are trying to help don't read". Her response was, "Well they might if they had a book."
How true! There is an assumption that those in need of charitable assistance do not read or will not treasure a book.
My late friend Margaret was given a book as a child. It was one of the few presents she received as a child. The book was a copy of "A child's garden of verses". Margaret was not a reader. She found it physically difficult to read but she treasured that book. It was a present. It had pictures. She had memorised the poems. She had no idea who had chosen the book for her, a child with a severe disability and a ward of the state does not get given many presents by individual adults. This came from "Father Christmas" at a party - and she loved it.
Margaret was an unlikely recipient for a book - and that made it all the more important to give her one.
As she grew up and I came to know her I would give her books. I chose things I thought she could use or just enjoy. I did not give her books which required prolonged concentration or which were beyond her reading abilities. I gave her knitting books or photographic books of animals. The print had to be good and clear. Her reading ability never progressed much beyond that of a nine year old. She would still put a finger under each word. When she used a knitting pattern I would enlarge it by as much as 200% and a chart by even more than that.
Other people never considered giving her books. "Oh Margaret is not a reader."
And yet Margaret loved and treasured the books she had. One year we went from the hospital in which we lived to the nearby shopping mall and I took her into a bookshop there. She was almost overwhelmed. At her request I showed her the section which sold a few knitting books as well as where to find the animal books and, for the first time in her life, she chose two books for herself and paid for them with the book voucher she had been given.
For weeks afterwards she talked about her trip to the bookshop. Margaret still did not "read books" in the sense that she read a novel or a work of non-fiction from end to end. She did not use the hospital's library trolley.
The charity in the shopping centre would never have considered giving Margaret a book. They simply do not understand what it means to "read a book". There are many ways to read a book.

3 comments:

Sheep Rustler said...

Attitudes like that make me want to scream!!! Though the Christmas tree is a good idea in itself, how many of those people might have a child who could benefit from a picture book, even if they themselves truly did not want to read? And most people would enjoy some type of book if given a chance.

When my daughter was five I put a tiny book in the party bags for the guests (along with sweets and party blowers) and all the mothers, all of whom had at least one university degree if not more, asked why I would put books in a party bag!!!

catdownunder said...

Where else would you put books? Sounds like a marvellous idea to me! Honestly, some people have no sense at all!

Anonymous said...

You're right - it should be mandatory to give at least one book to everyone at Christmas!