The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.
The purpose of this letter is to convince a long-lost friend of mine why reading is amazing and why she should pick up a book sometime.
Dear Long Lost Friend,
You know that I love to read, and always have since childhood. You’ve never been a big reader, so today I looked to Neil Gaiman who I believe best argues why you should.
In his article, Why Our Future Depends on Libraries, Reading, and Daydreaming, he discusses how private prisons use illiteracy rates to predict the number of people they should expect their cells to hold.
He talks about how fiction—your favorite genre—is a “gateway drug to reading” and criticizes critics who argue that reading Goosebumps, one of the best series of all time, turns children’s brains into mush, because obviously eight-year-olds should be reading Shakespeare.
He believes that reading inspires empathy, because as we read stories from people who don’t look like us, or live like we do, we learn.
It’s a way to escape from “reality” and explore the world. He then goes on to discuss the significance of libraries, and the responsibilities we adults (yes, we’re adults now) have for the next generations.
We both know how reading has improved our lives, but, the problem is that we no longer read.
Sure, in our creative writing and language courses we read—a lot—but, how often do we read for fun? In childhood, the focus was on encouraging us to read, and encouraging our parents to encourage us to read.
My mother and great-grandmother were never short of positive reinforcement for my habits, but we both know too many people who think of understanding the meaning behind words as “too much work”.
As Black women we understand the seriousness of companies using such data to make decisions.
It’s offensive, but also very true that many of our people are not encouraged—even discouraged—from reading.
I’d argue that the correlation between illiteracy and crime is an incentive for black people to read, after all, no education and miseducation have only led to sorrow.
Think about how far we’ve come from our humble beginnings in Chicago to college. It’s because of reading that we’ve made such progress.
Our families look to us to move on up to the good life, of financial independence, while also being role models for the children that need us. I argue that we should read intentionally.
Gaiman says, “libraries really are the gates to the future”. So, go out to the library and stalk the shelves for anything that catches your eye.
The library is a magical place where everyone, no matter their income, can read books that would cost $30 a pop from a bookstore.
If you don’t like something you can return it, and if you like it you can find more like it.
It’s an activity that you can look forward to, not just for yourself, but for your little cousins too. Take them with you so they can see what the world has to offer.
It’s insane how segregated Chi-Town is, where the libraries near my old neighborhood have all been closed, and children have nowhere to go.
The purpose of Gaiman’s article was to express concern for the closing of libraries across England. In essence, just like Chicago officials, “they are stealing from the future to pay for the present”.
Still, at least with your cousins you can take the bus downtown to Harold Washington, and turn it into a once a month field trip.
I know what you’re thinking, that sounds great Jaz, but what about me? You prefer manga over novels, and that’s okay.
After all, “we have an obligation to read for pleasure, in public and in private places” no matter than genre.
At the CR Public Library, children play on the computers all summer. I can’t tell other people’s kids what to do, but I can control my own actions, and read.
They see me read and watch me as I walk through the aisles. Parents ask me what books I liked to read when I was their child’s age. Let’s lead by example.
Now, neither Neil Gaiman nor I can provide statistics or brain scans to show you all the wonderful benefits of taking the time to read, but as a writer, you’ve experienced the benefits of a good book.
There’re a lot of kids who were like us—alone and sad, with a less than perfect home life, etc—and we can both resonate with their darkness (inside and out) and write the books that help them see the world for its true beauty.
The feeling of belonging, that someone understands, and that there is a brighter future have been invoked by books for hundreds of years.
So, do your best to read when you can. On a wonderful day when you suddenly have an hour of nothing important to do, pick up a book and make the world a better place.
Hi there, I just wanted to add that these “Reader’s Notebook” posts are unedited versions of what I submitted to my English professor for my final project.
Honestly, I am pretty hard on myself – especially when it comes to writing – so having a record of what I deemed to “acceptable” work will help me hold myself accountable. In this way, I will be able to truly track my progress as a writer.