I’ve been a “bookworm” for the majority of my life. As young boys, my brother and I didn’t have electronic gizmos to entertain us, other than an RCA black & white television set. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. My father was always replacing fried electronic tubes to keep the thing going.
Saturday morning cartoons would be tuned in, including westerns like, Roy Rogers, The Lone Ranger, Have Gun – Will Travel, Rin Tin Tin, and Sky King.
I suppose Sky King wasn’t actually a western, yet the actors did wear cowboy style clothing. It was supposedly filmed in Arizona. In reality, the series was shot in Apple Valley, California near George Air Force Base. My family was fortunate to be living there in 1956 with George A.F.B. being Dad’s duty station.
For me, books have always taken precedence over TV. A Hardy Boys mystery book on the weekend was entertainment enough. I’d stay up late reading about Frank and Joe Hardy’s adventures hoping to emulate them some day. Many boys my age enjoyed the same, while girls read about teenage detective, Nancy Drew.
In fifth grade, at Lubbock, Texas, our local library held a reading contest for students. Prizes were to be given away for different age groups, with one special prize awarded to an elementary student reading the most books. Rumor had it the grand prize was a bicycle.
I don’t recall how many books I read that summer, but it was a lot. I was determined to win first prize. When my name was called, I proudly walked on stage in front of a theater full of kids to get my prize. A lady congratulated me before placing a copy of Kon Tiki, by Thor Heyerdahl in my outstretched hand.
I was disappointed as I’d desperately wanted a new bike. Looking back on things, it was the perfect award for a bookworm like me. I still have that prize.
Sadly, book reading amongst young people is rapidly declining. The National Endowment for the Arts released a study detailing such, titled, Reading at Risk. The following is a short excerpt from that report:
“The trends among younger adults warrant special concern, suggesting that––unless some effective solution is found––literary culture, and literacy in general, will continue to worsen. Indeed, at the current rate of loss, literary reading as a leisure activity will virtually disappear in half a century.”
I believe that reading promotes creativity and imagination in children. I don’t see where electronic gizmos do the same, although there are some self-professed intellects that’ll disagree. Of course, these are the same folks claiming that violence and graphic language in movies, games, and music doesn’t harm a child’s developing mind.
Switching directions for a brief second, kids these days don’t seem to have the personal interaction skills that older generations possess. I blame much of this on social media along with those “devices” that they’re always staring into.
There is a way to promote reading in children. Foremost, take unsmart phones away from kids over the weekend. Tell them to read a book instead. Public libraries and schools need to have reading contests like they did years ago. Give out a bicycle along with a book for the grand prize. It’s amazing what kids will do when a suitable award is dangled over them.
I’m thankful for growing up with a book in front of my face rather than an iPhone. I’m sure the Hardy Boy’s would echo my thought along with Nancy Drew.