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COVID 19 and Reading

Education 29 Apr, 2020 Follow News

Dr. Livingston Smith is a Professor at the University College of the Cayman Islands. He is also Director of the CXC Education Volunteer programme

‘If you spend just 15 minutes a day, reading at the average rate of 300 words a minute, you will read a million and a half words a year—or an average of 20 books! But, of course, you have to devote these 15 minutes every day,’ says Ralph M. Besse, writing in the Foundation of Economic Education, 1952. He is correct.

Among other opportunities, the COVID-19 lockdown presents an ideal time to catch up on our reading, encourage our children to devour books and to make it a life-long habit, if they have not yet done so.

Marcus Garvey, who became the leader of the largest social movement among American blacks prior to the civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King Jr, gives some advice on when and how much to read: ‘Use every spare minute you have in reading. If you are going on a journey - carry something with you to read… If you are sitting down waiting for somebody… read until the person comes. Don’t waste time… study words whilst waiting or travelling. Read through at least one book every week, separate and distinct from your newspapers and journals… At the end of one year you will have read - fifty-books. After five years… two hundred and fifty books. You may be considered then a well-read man or a well-read woman and there will be a great difference between you and the person who has not read one book,’ Marcus Garvey Said – Ken Jones, p 61.

He was correct.

Schools, irrespective of the level, don’t ‘educate us’; they prepare us for an education. To say that one is ‘educated’ is too static an idea, out of sync with a fast-moving world where knowledge is constantly being added, interrogated, and modified. New ideas and concepts are constantly emerging impacting whatever areas we work in. Education is a continuous process made possible through reading. Irrespective of the era in which he lives - the educated person studies for a lifetime.

Good advice on how to make sure we keep reading is that we always carry a book or a serious magazine, to read more than one book at a time as our moods are changeable. Premier Alden Mclaughlin, in his online biography, says he usually has two or more books reading at the same time. Having a variety of books helps us to keep reading.

Back to Garvey ‘The world’s greatest men and women… educated themselves outside of the university… you have the same opportunity of doing the same things the university student does - read and study.’ Garvey was writing before the widespread opportunities for online opportunities, kindle and so on.

Obama, himself an avid reader, knows the benefits of getting our children to love to devour books. ‘At the moment that we persuade a child, any child, to cross that threshold, that magic threshold into a library, we change their lives forever, for the better. It’s an enormous force for good’ (See Obama’s ‘Bound to the Word’ speech delivered in 2005, at a conference of the American Library Association (ALA).

The benefits of reading are numerous and important, and it is a wonder more of us do not; some persons read practically nothing.

While it is true that we only learn in three ways: from others, by thinking things out ourselves and by experience, it is reading, as Besse writes, that has the most to offer ‘Reading is the most complete, most available, cheapest, quickest and most current source of learning.’

Descartes says that ‘The reading of all good books is like a conversation with the finest minds of past centuries.’ And to quote further from Besse: ‘Books present the finest of all reading opportunities. The greatest thinking of the finest minds, the finest expression of the greatest writers and the most profound learning of qualified experts in every field and every age is available in books.’

Reading is necessary for self-improvement - in fact, indispensable. Many cannot formally return to school - but they can read. After all, the work of a lifetime is often recorded in a single book!

In reading we are exposed to the views and perspectives of various authors, it broadens vocabulary, provides information, exposes us to better forms of expressions and, of course, there is an entertainment value as well. It also encourages good habits of thinking, promotes mental health, improves writing skills, and improves focus and attention. Of particular value are newspaper editorials, magazines and books.

It is not surprising that a common characteristic of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs – billionaires - is that they tend to be voracious readers. Book worms include Warren Buffett who is said to devote about 80% of each day to reading - some 600-1,000 pages per day, as reported by Andrew Merle, The Reading Habits of Ultra-Successful People - HuffPost. Other such reading billionaires are Elon Musk, Oprah Winfrey, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates. Gates is said to read fifty books per year!

Successful people read widely as the believe that books are gateways to learning and knowledge - for self-improvement, education, and success. Reading is part of their success.

Let’s get reading!

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