Saturday, January 9, 2010

Reading on top of the world.

Okay, so I lied. Today's post isn't going to be about free online TV for Canadians. Rather, it's inspired by a comment I made on somebody else's blog, and relates back to yesterday's entry about books and reading.

I've been an avid reader right from childhood. It was rare to find me with my nose out of a book. Books took me away from the problems in my life, and let me deal with emotional problems in my own time. Books probably kept me sane during difficult periods.

But that wasn't how I started being a bookworm. Truth to tell, I don't know how it all started. But I don't ever remember disliking reading. I barely remember not being able to read very much, when I was little.

It's a shame I had the bad luck to live in a city with the lowest literacy rate in the province, and possibly the whole country.

And the highest teen pregnancy rate. I'm too jaded to think that there's no connection there.

But for a while, things weren't too bad. There were about 5 second-hand book stores within walking distance of my high school, and that's where most of my allowance went. When I got a job and started working for pay, that's where a fair portion of my paycheques went, too.

But those stores didn't last very long. They rarely did. There just wasn't much of a market for books, unfortunately. The only people I ever saw who were my age in those stores were a few close bookworm friends, and I rarely saw adults there either.

So inevitably, the bookstores closed. Now there are two second-hand book stores in the uptown area, to the best of my knowledge: one that makes more money from the sales of comics and magazines, and the other that's also a coin collector's shop and semi-antique store.

I once signed a petition to bring an Indigo Books or Chapters to this city. For a long time, the parent company declined. We had 3 Coles Bookstores in this city, and that should suffice, they said. Those stores were small enough as it was, but their sales weren't high enough to warrant bringing in a larger store.

We have an Indigo now, after a lot of economic and business development on the east side. But I think that Starbucks coming to this city was more of a deciding factor in bringing an Indigo here than our reading rate was. (Yes, we've only had a Starbucks in this city for a couple of years now. For being one of the oldest cities in Canada, we don't have much to say for ourselves most of the time.)

(I should mention that I don't much like Starbucks, and will instead buy from a local company called Java Moose. Java Moose makes better chai anyway.)

This is a city where more people brag about not having read a book since high school than there are people that read a book a month. (I read far more than a book a month, it should be said.) The reason for our recently business development boom is because of an influx of Chinese university students with money to burn, not because the native reseidents were outgrowing our surroundings and yearning for more culture, more entertainment, more education.

The library has more people signing up to use their DDR and Rock Band equipment than for their book clubs.

I could rant on for pages about declining educational standards and all sorts of reasons for an overall lack of interest in reading in this city, but that isn't what this blog is for.

So why am I ranting at all about it? Because it relates back to a simple lifestyle, I think. A lot of people here have forgotten, or never knew, the simple pleasure that can be found in opening a book and getting lost in a story. One of my skills that I prize very highly is my ability to read, and my subsequant enjoyment of it. I can't imagine not reading. I can't imagine taking a bus ride even for ten minutes without a book to keep me entertained.

And for that ten minutes, one sixth of an hour, I was somewhere else, transported away on a great adventure, making new friends and seeing new places, experiencing things that others can only dream of, if they dare to dream at all. Ten minutes is all it takes.

And it seems that for ten minutes, far too many people find it more fulfilling to stare out of a dirty window at passing cars.

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