Reading is a hobby of mine. It has gotten me through some of the worst moments of my life and it was a savior during my childhood. The library was where I went to escape the world and discover it at the same time. When I walked into the room at my ten year high school reunion, everyone said "look, it's the girl with the book!" I'd read so much that I didn't recognize hardly anybody.
I read mostly fiction and what few biographies there were on women, but preferred science fiction from a very early age. Somehow, I had this stupid belief that the future was going to be better, that we would be living in space and be getting ready to humanly explore outside the solar system and that we would have met or seen evidence of another space faring race by this point in my life. I had originally planned to spend my fortieth birthday on the moon we had landed on 26 years before.
I totally get why aliens haven't contacted us, I wouldn't get into a cage with a lion either. I've often wondered why we think we can successfully attack a vehicle that came from an obviously superior system, but I guess kneejerk reactions will prevail. Personally, I'd rather take a chance and find out what they wanted before I tried to dissect them. But I digress.
Reading is fundamental. It really is. If you have the ability to read you can learn just about anything., including how to make things. You may not be able to do everything you read, but it stimulates the mind and enables you to imagine something similar or allows you to explore the world of another person. The ability to read has taken me to countries I've never physically visited and met people I would never meet on the street.
In fourth grade it was a requirement to learn how to use the school library. The Dewey Decimal system was explained and it was suggested that successful book reports and essays could be done with what was available if one was willing to use the service. I preferred the base library because it was bigger and had more fiction available. It as where I hid out after being kicked out of Sunday School for asking what they determined to be a heretical question (I didn't think that if you lived off of Patagonia (it was the sixties)and had never seen a white man or heard of the Bible that God would send you to hell because you hadn't heard of Jesus Christ) and while I waited for church to start so I could be honest and tell my dad I went to church every Sunday.
As I grew older (twenties) I started buying books. By the time I had moved away from the San Fernando Valley, Crown Books had expanded its scifi section in three different stores. For really interesting books I went to Change of Hobbit in Santa Monica (not there any more) and that unfortunate trend is continuing in both schools and state budgets.
Having access to city libraries as schools cut back on everything that makes learning interesting is crucial for inner city and rural children to expand their imagination, to teach them that Wikipedia isn't everything and being able to feel a book in your hands and have your eyes track the words and paragraphs helps to reinforce that more than one person has information on any given subject. It shows them a future that is possible and that they can be a part of it. It can help make up for the deficiencies in the school system.
As much as I love the internet, and I do, I also belong to the local library and check out books for when I don't want to watch a movie, I want to have quiet time, don't want to type and still be entertained. If Abraham Lincoln thought reading was so important that he was willing to do it by firelight, we should be expanding access for our kids to more authors, more information and let's face it, more organization. Numbers or letters, they both work at the library.
Goodbye Mr. Updike, I wasn't one of your faithful readers but you gave so much to others that the literary world will definitely miss you. Thank you for your contributions and the pleasure your brought to so many.