A story on reading

August 28th, 2018 by Ken

The boy remembered the first time he learned to read.  He was parked in front of a small town meat market in a car being driven by his mother, waiting for his father to get off work.  Slowly he sounded out each word – – Charles City Meats.  “It says Charles City Meats, mom.”   “That’s right son,” she replied.

He was four.  It wasn’t unusual for a child to read at four years of age, although children learned to read a lot later back then; but it seems unusual for him to remember the exact time and place when he learned to read.

When he was about eight years of age, living off of a rural road in the country, it was the bi-weekly bookmobile which got his attention.

Every two weeks, during the summer, the bookmobile would stop at the end of the long dirt road.  In order to serve the rural population the local library sent an old bus, filled with books, out in the county to serve kids who couldn’t make it into town.

It was one of the highlights of his summer.  He would browse through all of the books on the racks.  Since there was a limit on the number of books he could borrow, he made his selections only after careful consideration.  After an hour, maybe less, he could never be sure of how much time passed, he would leave the bus with his arms full of books, hoping they would last until the bookmobile came again.

In school, most of the subjects bored him, with the exception of history and literature (what was called reading then.)   But he was lucky.   He was seated next to the entire collection of the World Book Encyclopedia.  It was in these volumes that he escaped the boredom of organized education.   He started with the “A” section and made his way through the entire collection  which ended in “XYZ” before the school year was out.  How much he recalled of his readings is left to a faded memory, but he remembered loving the words on every page.

When he was 12 he discovered the Christian Bible.   People were talking about it and people were quoting it, so I thought I better read it, he said.   The boy picked up an old copy of the Bible and every night, before he went to sleep, he read a chapter.   Most of it was uninteresting, full of “begots”, but he made his way through.  It wasn’t the last time that he would read that book.

For his 13th birthday, he asked his mom for a book case in which he could keep his many books.

Without much money, and a good distance from any library, the boy would go into his local mini-market and read the new pocket books on sale off the magazine rack. He would stand there for an hour or more, reading the new novels.  He particularly liked historical novels, but he also took a shine to Mike Hammer and Mickey Spillane.   He knew the books were re-stocked every Friday, so it was on the weekends when he took time to look over the new selection.  And he’d pick one, maybe two, stuff them in his jacket pocket and walk out the door.   These new pocket novels eventually filled his new book case.

When he moved into town, the boy would look for ways to spend the summer days and he found it in the Carnegie Library.   The rows and rows of books overwhelmed him.   But he made his way through most of the biographies and some of the histories, sitting in the old wooden chairs and filling his mind with images.

During his time in the Army, the boy, now a young man, would find his way to the Dayroom which the military stocked with ping pong tables, card tables, a television and many magazines.   The young man would look over the dozens of titles, pick one out, and sit for several hours just reading the magazines, many of them he had never heard of before.   The military exposed him to new worlds, through its magazine collection.

When he became a husband, the man subscribed to the local newspaper and as many magazines as he could afford.   And, while he watched television for entertainment, he found reading as an educational escape from the troubles and the worries of being a husband, and then a father.

When the opportunity came for higher  education, the man, grasped the opportunity and entered college, expecting to be exposed to new ideas and new concepts.   What he found was often boring and nonsense.  So, he started a reading and writing group and soon found himself teaching classes in both for the students, many of whom were a decade younger than himself.

That translated into employment in the newspaper and radio business, where he had to read to keep ahead of his audience, but a chore he found exhilarating and exciting.

As he aged he continued reading.  As the act of actually reading printed material ceased to be a major factor in communications, he still read.  Since printed magazines were inexpensive he subscribed to several, as many as a dozen at last count and found himself surrounded by new writers and new information.

To this day, the man reads constantly.   He can’t sit still for a few minutes without feeling the need to read something.

Posted in The Real News

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