On the joy and benefits of reading

'Once you have a book to read you are never bored'

WHEN THE hiatus caused by the General Election, Brexit, and the upcoming exams is over, time will allow for the opportunity to discuss the greatest of joys - the joy of reading.

Born into a family of booksellers, reading was almost as natural to us as breathing. We were always surrounded by books. Anytime one of us was sick, the parents would arrive home with a handful of books, so that being sick almost became an integral part of our upbringing.

Reading is probably one of the most private, not to say intimate, of pastimes. The reader exudes an air of total relaxation, is completely immersed, and is totally immune to the busy world surrounding him/her. Most images of a reader depict a person in the most relaxed of postures, lost in a magic world of his/her own, as beautifully described by Shane Martin his poem 'The Reader' in his collection, Thin Lines (Orpen Press ).

Over many years of bookselling, one of the questions most asked by anxious parents is 'How can I get my child to read?'

“You fiddle with your hair a lot/twisting rings and flicking them free-/carnival wheels spinning to your mind melodies. Your eyes sail quiet through the text,/ your hand presses down the unread page/like a captain at the wheel, watching the horizon. Your legs are crossed under the stool,/ anchored but swaying with a certain rhythm/ like a ship rising ripples from its sunken place. You are dead to the city of din and diction/ like a circus girl balancing on the rope -/ drama sketching within your furtive frame.”

Over many years of bookselling, one of the questions most asked by anxious parents is “How can I get my child to read?” The correct answer of course varies from person to person, but I always feel that the most appropriate general answer is found in the Irish proverb: “Mol an óige agus tiocfaidh siad” (Praise the young and they will follow ).


Basically my feeling and experience is that if there are colourful books, particularly of the kind that might interest children left around the house, and if the parents themselves read, eventually curiosity will get the better of them. The chances are they will open a book and the magic either happens or it does not.

As the children grow, and the most important exam of their lives begins to hover on the horizon, it is worth remembering that when they sit at the examination table, they are on their own without accoutrements to help them. It is here that not only will those children who are readers understand the questions with ease, they will have the word power and ability to express themselves cogently.

Perhaps the final word to an article such as this which only scratches the surface is to call to mind our mother’s greatest mantra: “Once you have a book to read you are never bored".


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