Mrs Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren_ 1888
Mrs Cassatt Reading to her Grandchildren_ 1888


Learning to read is probably the most difficult and revolutionary thing that happens to the human brain and if you don’t believe that, watch an illiterate adult try to do it.”
― John Steinbeck

The value of reading in my life is incommensurable.

When I was in grade school, I remember a teacher whose idea of a reading test was to have us come to her desk, one after the other, and read out loud a passage from a primer.

Imagine that. Reading as stress test.


That’s how I remember that I could do it fairly naturally.

(I wonder how many children she turned off of reading)

I don’t know what makes a reader. Are proficient readers made the same way that passionate bookworms are?

Is there such a thing as a born reader? Does it come more readily to some than others?

Maybe some of us have neural pathways that just make it easier for us; or maybe, for some of us, it’s the immobility required to read that gets in the way as our kinesthetic bodies scream move, move, move.

Thomas Benjamin Kennington, Boy Reading
Thomas Benjamin Kennington, Boy Reading

I think you have to be exposed to reading young, and that you stand a much better chance of becoming a good reader if the people around you value the act of reading—which seems obvious enough, but…how many children actually see their parents reading? How many are read to?

Becoming a passionate reader is one step beyond that.

Here are some of the elements that I think correlate with a passion for reading:

– I think that you have to love books themselves. You have to love the object: its papery, dusty smell, its jacket, cover and spine, and the flutter of pages when they fan open.

– You have to have a book collector inside of you. Not be an obsessed acquirer of books necessarily, but you must derive real, deep pleasure from holding a newly discovered book, or having a small personal library of beloved books, or books that you can’t wait to read, or swapped or loaned books.


– You have to have within you a measure of introversion to be a true bookworm, I think. If you don’t, then there will be a greater tension inside you, and reading will require an extra sacrifice. The thought of holing up somewhere in a café or on a train or in a bus or under the covers at bedtime, to disappear into a book, is one of life’s great moments of happiness if you’re a bookworm.



– A curious mind, avid for input, helps fuel a passion for reading, as does an imagination constantly longing for new destinations.


– I also think that every bookworm has a writer living inside, usually undeclared and mostly unacknowledged, but there nevertheless, and that this writer is awakened during the act of reading in a kind of sympathetic response, fueling an urge to write too.

boyreading,oilpainting,paintingschildrenrealism-5f6b8706fe11c72571bf91c789b5e9bb_h  Woman_Reading_L

Though the singular silence of a world without music is unimaginable, the thought of a world without the written word is even more unbearable to me, and I’m reminded of the enveloping isolation that illiteracy effects.


All that mankind has done, thought, gained, or been; it is lying as in magic preservation in the pages of books.” 
― Thomas Carlyle


When you learn to read you will be born again…and you will never be quite so alone again.”
― Rumer Godden


And yet, many of the recent discussions about literacy are centered on the struggle between words and images in the 21st century. It’s the subject of vivid debate, with unpredictable consequences.

Here is a list of books you can find on the Library’s shelves that tackle this issue and many others relating to the value of reading:


(You can also listen to Chris Hedges discussing his book on Ideas (CBC Radio One))

1619022427.01.LZZZZZZZ  0670878839.01.LZZZZZZZ


0838909981.01.LZZZZZZZ  0670025984.01.LZZZZZZZ

“I know some who are constantly drunk on books as other men are drunk on whiskey. ”
H.L. Mencken





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