Happy International Literacy Day!
One of my high school students once asked me, “Mister, why do we read?” I was pretty sure he was trying to get me off on a tangent (which my students quickly learn is an easy way to get out of homework), so I made some noncommittal reply and moved on.
Later, when I recounted this story to our school’s English Department Head, his eyes got wide as he asked, “Well, what did you say?” When I told him about my dismissive reply, he looked me in the eye and said,
“No. When they ask that tell them we learn to read because we can. We read because dogs can’t. It’s what makes us human.”
Since I’ve been trying to make up for that classroom omission ever since, on this day, as a small penance, here are my favorite quotes on reading and of course… why we read.
1. “Reading is not walking on the words; it’s grasping the soul of them.”
― Paulo Freire
2. “My alma mater was books, a good library…. I could spend the rest of my life reading, just satisfying my curiosity.”
— Malcolm X
3. “Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another’s skin, another’s voice, another’s soul.”
— Joyce Carol Oates
4. “It is interesting to note that although we prescribe literacy to the oppressed, literacy has not necessarily cured the oppressor… We say to the supposedly lesser-developed: Literacy will help you build a just society, although it has not done that for us.”
— Derek Rasmussen
5. “The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.”
— Mark Twain
6. “The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you.”
— B.B. King
7. “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies.… The man who never reads lives only one.”
― George R.R. Martin, A Dance with Dragons
8. “You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”
― Ray Bradbury
9. “I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.”
― Groucho Marx
10. “We read to know we’re not alone.”
― William Nicholson, Shadowlands
Any favorites that I missed?
Either way – happy International Literacy Day – time to go read a book…
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