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Sunday, June 7, 2009


J. Grant Swank, Jr.

When Sir Robert Walpole was dismissed from all his responsibilities at his work, he retired to Houghton and walked into the library. When pulling down a book and holding it some minutes to his eyes, he immediately and rather sullenly put it back on the shelf for another.

He held that volume about half an hour, then looking out for a third book, returned it instantly to its shelf. He then began to cry, saying: "I have led a life of business so long that I have lost my taste for reading and now--what shall I do?"

What is it to realize that one has stunted the mind?

Busyness. Running about. Watching television. Traveling here and there. Daydreaming. Talking on the phone. Browsing through the malls.

Where has been the reading? Where have been the books?

Is that the vacuum in your life? You have been doing, but you have neglected reading.

Is there anything you can now do about it?

Certainly. Start reading.

An older woman was visiting with my wife and me for an extended vacation. She caught sight of a book which she said she would enjoy reading. I told her to borrow it. She said that she would try to get through it by reading now and then during her several week visit.

My wife and I had already read the book. Therefore, we started to chat with our friend about one particular chapter. It had been one which our friend had also just finished.

We two were amazed when he heard this woman relate details which were just the opposite of what was in that chapter. Therefore, we pointed out the falsities. She became adamant that she was correct.

The nub of it is that we were able to show her on the page the correct detail.

It was then that I realized that this friend was reading belaboringly through this book. The reason? She hardly read. Her life was consumed basically with television.

Consequently, when she did find a book which she thought she would like, she had not developed the skills to read it comfortably.

Yet if you have lived years without reading, it is never too late to start developing those reading skills.

Our family has another friend--a non-reader--who was laid off her job. She was offered a government-sponsored scholarship to learn a new trade, one in which she had had no previous knowledge. Nevertheless, she took the challenge.

All of a sudden she found herself in a classroom, studying volumes, preparing for exams, having to learn pages upon pages of new data, memorizing terms, writing papers, and conversing before students in class.

At first it was overwhelming to her. Yet, she persisted. She thought that she was going to fail the courses; therefore, she gave hours upon hours to reading.

At the graduation, she was the top in her class. She could not believe it. Because she thought that she was going to fail, she gave extra, extra effort to her reading. And it obviously paid off in the end.

It can be done. A non-reader can turn into a reader. It is worth it for there are worlds of knowledge and wonder out there in books, books, and more books.

If you have not been reading, be patient with yourself at first. Get hold of some book which is easy reading. Then progress to more difficult material. But at least make a start.

Set aside a certain time in the day when you are going to read. Then add to your relaxed reading, studying. Studying is researching a subject, delving deeply. There is a lot of work to this; but it is your opportunity for growth.

A friend sets aside each September as his month to read a brand new book through within the month. It is usually a bestseller. He does not often bother with the bestseller list; but in September, he tries to come upon some book from that list.

Another friend of ours sets aside each summer to research a subject she has never come upon before. The summer we visited her cabin in Maine, she was pouring over volumes relating to the BOOK OF REVELATION. She could not tell us enough about what information she had mastered. It was as if she had just returned from visiting a foreign country and wanted to share with us her experiences.

Read early in the morning. Read in the middle of the night when you cannot sleep. Read all Saturday morning. Read with the phone off the hook. Read for an entire Thursday evening, refusing the temptation to wander about the shopping mall.

Put on your calendar times to read just as if they are appointments to be kept. Keep them, for they are important. You are keeping an appointment with yourself--your mind.

When you really get into reading, you will discover that you open up your social life to more people--those who have likewise come upon the pleasures of books. You need this kind of exchange. You will come upon exceptionally stimulating personalities. They may be growing older, but their minds are keen. And their vocabularies are challenging. Their concepts are fresh and deepening.

Bored with life? Tired of the group you have been seeing for some time?

Then start reading avidly and meet with others of like interest. You will not be sorry for the exploration. Instead, you will ask yourself why it is that you did not take up earnest reading many years before.