I’ve been reading ‘Wits and Wives’ by Kate Chisholm and was struck by a piece of advice Samuel Johnson gave to Hester Thrale’s oldest daughter, Queeney.
“Those who do not read can have little to think and nothing to say.”
In some ways, I dislike the elitist element of the phrase. I understand that Samuel Johnson was writing to someone who could read, in a time when literacy was in no way universal. Yet in an age like now, when almost everyone can read and so many don’t, I think there is validity to this quote.
The children where I work are often surprised at my reading. There was one that used to come up to me and say with disbelief, “why do you read… books?” I can only ask what I should be doing instead.
One of the things I have noticed about the children in my care, is that they are getting more boring. Kids have always let trends wash over them, I remember quoting bits of old tango adverts and TV catchphrases, but everything the children know and do now, comes from the internet. If one kid knows all the words to Big Shaq’s ‘Man’s not hot’ or even the rip off/response ‘Man’s not cold’ - then they all know it. I can increasingly guess pretty much what a child is going to say because they all say the same thing.
Now - there are some children that don’t follow that trend. Those children read.
What’s more, what about those adults who don’t read?
I find that many teachers are astonishing in how little they read. I know they are busy people and some of them have children but many teachers barely read at all. It does mean that it’s hard to talk to some of them about anything other than work.
I know it makes me sound proud, I’m not declaring myself a fascinating person (one of my over-riding interests is 18th century literature after all) but I could contribute to all sorts of conversations. I said in one of the previous ‘Under the glass’ segments that it was good enough to be thinking about cucumbers than nothing - but reading does seem a way to extending the range beyond them.
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