Isn't it amazing that children have suddenly become avid readers? That's what they've done, at least, when it comes to the series of Harry Potter books by J. K. Rowling. Even more amazing is the fact that a lot of parents are upset about it, saying that their kids shouldn't be reading about magic and witchcraft. To which I say: Who cares what they're reading as long as they read?
"Reading is to the mind," wrote Joseph Addison, "what exercise is to the body." And any boy or girl who can read a 700-page book in one or two sittings should have a very bright future.
I found myself wondering what William Shakespeare, known for some literary magic of his own, might say about this Potter phenomenon. I thought he might say something like the following (though much better, of course), along the lines of the "To be or not to be" speech in "Hamlet."
To read, or not to read: that is the question:
Whether 'tis better for the mind to wander
Through books as fanciful as Harry Potter,
Or to protest against such printed works
And not let children read them? To read: to think;
Imagine; and, by such thinking to help end
The TV and the violent video games
Our kids are hooked on. 'Tis a renaissance
Devoutly to be wished. To read, to think;
To think: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
What dreams may come to children who read books,
Transporting them about this mortal coil,
Inspire the tykes to learn, so when they're grown
Good jobs await them. Who would burgers flip,
To grunt and sweat inside some fast-food joint,
When knowledge waits for all inside of books,
The undiscover'd countries into which
All travelers may go, to fire the will,
To make one choose, instead of game or show,
To study things that one may know not of?
Non-reading makes illiterates of us all;
The universal light of education
Can thus be dimmed by willful ignorance,
When children of great native wit and promise
Are left to fool with images and noise,
And lose the name of readers.
Copyright 2000 by Ronald L. Ecker
For other articles, see Ecker's Little Archive.
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