Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Why is reading important?

This morning, in class, I asked my students to write in response to this question: Why is reading important?  Here's what I wrote:

I've recently been reading a novel called The Barbarian Nurseries, by Hector Tobar, and I'm constantly reminded of the riches, pleasures, and knowledge that a good book contains.  Someone once said, "Reading is an exercise in empathy."  To really understand other people, cultures, and perspectives, a good book is a great place to start.

As someone who is sincerely interested in understanding how the world works, I find reading to be an invaluable resource.  This is because, often times, videos and films do not exist about the topics I'm interested in, which are local culture, history, politics, and social problems.  To learn about the things I'm interested in, I have to read.  Often times, the information I want doesn't even exist online.  I have to physically go to the library and find physical books, and read them.  Some may call this "old school" but it's the only way I know to get the information and understanding I need.

For example, I've spent the past couple years trying to understand the history of the town I live in (Fullerton, California).  You can't go out and watch a movie about this.  I have to read old newspaper archives, oral history interviews, academic papers and theses from the library.  The truth exists, but it exists in texts that you have to dig for.

As a writer, reading is essential, and not just because it helps me understand the possibilities of language, but because it is often my only way of learning what I want to know.  Part of my passion, as a writer, is reading things that not a lot of people have read, and then turning what I learn into a narrative.  Right now, that narrative is about the history of my community.  I do this because I truly believe that understanding the past is essential to understand the present, and to be an effective catalyst for positive change for the future.


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