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The Importance of Not Reading Being So Cool
“So, what are you reading these days?” I ask a ten-year-old customer at the shop. He is accompanied by an avid-reader sister and parents who are enjoying digging through tons of books.
“Uh, I don’t read,” he proudly announces, working hard to look cool and macho at the same time.
“You mean you can’t read at all?” I ask, faking sympathy.
“Er, no, I know how to read,” he replies a bit disdainfully.
“He knows how to read, he just doesn’t like to read,” his nearby sister explains patiently, thumbing through a Nancy Drew book.
“So, you don’t read anything?” I persist, knowing that what he really means is that he reads everything he wants to read, but never in the form of a book, which would not be cool.
He doesn’t know how to answer, so I say, “You did not read street signs on the way over, to find out where you are…you don’t read anything on the internet…you don’t read video game instructions…you don’t text or facebook or tweet…you don’t read comic books…you don’t read the sports page to see what your favorite team is doing?”
He admits he does read these things.
“Then, I guess what you mean is that you just don’t read books, right?”
“OK. Follow me for a second,” I engage his gaze and trap him for a moment or two. “What would happen if you hard-copied everything you read this week–you know what a hard copy is?” He nods, a little hypnotized now. “Then,” I continue, “What if you made a hard copy of each and every thing you read and placed it in a stack after seven days. Do you think the stack would be about this thick?” I measure out 1 1/2 inches with thumb and finger. He agrees that’s about right.
“Well, if you took that stack of paper to Kinko’s and asked them to bind it together with hard covers, that would be what we call a Book.”
He gets it, I can tell.
“So…you read at least one book a week…so you do read books!” I smile. His parents are paying attention but hiding this fact from the boy. It’s obvious they have tried to work through this with him in various ways but have never thought of the “book” approach.
I smile again and say, “Thanks for reading books. They are quite fun to read!” He kind of relaxes and continues to wander the shop. His sister is grinning. And I relax because I can see that he is not offended or embarrassed—thank goodness! A fine line to walk.
As I head to the front of the shop to assist other customers, I quote Mark Twain to his sister and parents because it’s my store and I can do things like this: “A man who doesn’t read has no advantage over a man who can’t read.”
I know—I’m a tad overbearing. But dang it, I just have to sermonize now and again.
By the way, this happens at least twice a week in the shop. Sometimes it’s a forty-something man who brags about never reading books, once in a blue moon it’s a young girl, but the scenario is always the same—someone brags about never reading books as if it is the politically correct thing to do in the modern South. And I, the avid bookseller, try to demonstrate in various ways that books are everywhere in every form, ready to be read, even if they are in no way called books
© Jim Reed 2014 A.D.