Friday, 17 July 2015

A world without books - Jo-Anne Berthelsen

Recently, I heard a story about a young woman who was moving house. She happens to own quite a few books and these had been packed in boxes ready for the big day. Now the number of books she owned did not seem over the top to her, so she was quite taken aback by the conversation that ensued when the young male removalists arrived.

‘This box sure is heavy—what’s in it?’

‘Books—I’ve written it on the box here. And I wrote "More books" on this one and "Even More Books" on that one. And there’s one over there that says "Still more books!"

The young men were dumbfounded.

‘Why do you own all those books? What do you do with them?’

‘Well ... er ... I read them.’

‘Man—I don’t own any books. And I don’t read any,’ one of them said. ‘But I’m on Facebook!’

I thought about this conversation later as I was reading a book to our one-year-old granddaughter. Moments earlier, she had objected when her Granddad sat down to read to her three-year-old brother. No, she managed to convey to us through much crying, she did not want to share—she was determined to have her very own book and turn the pages herself. As I read to her and looked across at our grandson, who was listening so intently to his own book, I hoped and prayed they would keep this love of books they have forever. Perhaps those young removalists had never been able to sit and read books with their grandparents. Perhaps they had never been read to as children. Perhaps they never saw their own parents read, for whatever reason. Perhaps they were migrants and had difficulty reading English. Perhaps they had been turned off it at school. Perhaps they couldn’t read well at all.

I felt sorry for them. No doubt they are quite happy not being readers—but I began to think of all the richness they are missing out on as a result. As I write this, I am looking across at some laden bookshelves in my study. They contain a weird mixture of books—novels by my favourite authors, non-fiction by more of my favourite authors on a wide variety of topics such as writing, mentoring, spirituality, the Bible, prayer, intimacy with God, understanding ourselves, women in marriage and ministry, current issues facing the church, counselling, missions, and more. These books represent to me such a wealth of wisdom and so many pleasurable experiences from recent times and past years. I would not be the person I am today without having read them. And these young men, while they might not be interested in reading anything remotely like the books I read, are missing out on all that.

How blessed we are that somehow, somewhere, we gained a love of books! How did that happen for you? You might like to share that with us.

How blessed we all are to have such easy access to books, both electronic and hard copy, these days! Even if we can’t afford to buy many, libraries are free.

And how blessed those of us who write are to be able to create more books, thus leaving a legacy behind that someone might value in years to come!  

Jo-Anne Berthelsen lives in Sydney but grew up in Brisbane. She holds degrees in Arts and Theology and has worked as a high school teacher, editor and secretary, as well as in local church ministry. Jo-Anne is passionate about touching hearts and lives through both the written and spoken word. She is the author of six published novels and one non-fiction work, Soul Friend: the story of a shared spiritual journey. Jo-Anne is married to a retired minister and has three grown-up children and four grandchildren. For more information, please visit www.jo-anneberthelsen.com.

19 comments:

  1. Hi Jo-Anne,
    I can sympathise. We have moved a couple of times since 2012, and the removalist chaps now know us as the people with all the books.
    Lovely to read about your little grandchildren, as so many kids their age no longer get a chance to touch real books at all.

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  2. Yes, I have watched our two older granddaughters' interest in books gradually fade as they get older, as they opt for games in their electronic devices or other activities. Not all bad, of course, but I still remember how wonderful it was when growing up to curl up in a corner and lose myself in those 'Anne' books or whatever and am sorry they don't have that privilege! I am sure they pity me though that I didn't have all their wonderful electronic games to play!

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  3. Hi Jo-Anne - I totally relate to having multiple boxes of books on removal day. It's amazing how many boxes 8 bookshelves of books need. And now I have even more. I think that you are right - parents and grandparents reading to their children help instill a love for books. Kids that don't have that miss out. I guess that's why the Pajama Foundation does such a great job. I find it hard to imagine a world without books - and even harder to imagine a world without stories.

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    1. We haven't moved house for many years now (around thirty!!)--so can you imagine the big 'cull' my husband and I will have to do when we eventually leave here?! In that time though, my husband has had to move his books from an office at a theological college to an office and a local church and then eventually home here, so he has thrown a few books out each time and will certainly get rid of lots more one way or another before we move from here.

      Re reading to children, just this week, I saw the power of reading to adults, when I gave a talk on the treasures to be found in books to a group of older women. I ended by reading them 'You are Special' by Max Lucado and holding up the book, just as a teacher reads to a class, so they could see the illustrations. I was quite moved by the powerful effect the book had on them--they enjoyed it so much. I plan to do that much more in the future with groups that aren't too big.

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  4. Great post Jo. I've been reading to a little 7-year-old girl in foster care for the last 16 months as part of my role as a Pyjama Angel with the Pyjama Foundation. When I started meeting with her, she was more keen on the games, puppets and puzzles I brought rather than the books. But now she loves books and often tries to get me to stay longer to read just one more. She has older siblings and the foster Mum told me a while ago that she's the first one to enjoy reading. It just reinforced to me the importance of reading to children at a young age. One of the reasons the Pyjama Foundation started was because they found that foster children often miss out on that early exposure to books and the fun of learning. I know people have different personalities and some people like reading more than others, but I also can't help thinking how much people miss out on if they don't experience the world of books. Positive experiences at an early age can certainly help. Thanks for sharing.

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  5. That's such a wonderful gift your are providing for that little seven-year-old, Nola--and I'm sure it must be very rewarding for you too to see how much she is beginning to love having you read to her. Yes, you're right that some children love books more than others, as we have seen even with our four grandchildren, but it's not too often any of them have turned down being read to.

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  6. Thanks for your post, Jo-Anne. Books certainly do add a richness to our lives. I thank God that I grew up without a television and in a house full of books. There is something about reading to someone or being read to by someone that connects you. I have just begun work as a chaplain in a local primary school and each of the kids who have opened up to me, have opened up as we read a book together and discussed what we were reading and seeing. Sitting quietly together, discovering another world and sharing our own world and experiences is a true blessing and opportunity to build relationships. And if any of you have never read 'The Blue Day Book for Kids' to your children or grandchildren ... or any child, I highly recommend it!

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    1. I'm sure you would do a wonderful job as a school chaplain, Jenny. And yes, there's a lovely intimacy involved in reading a book together--you described it so well. Thanks too for your recommendation of 'Blue Day Book for Kids'. I know the original one for adults but didn't realise there was one for kids as well, so will watch out for it.

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  7. Jo-Anne, lovely post :) I've always loved reading, and my mother spent many hours reading to me before bedtime until I was old enough to read myself to sleep. My kids will read, and enjoy reading. But, there are so many other entertainment options related to technology that didn't exist when I was younger.

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    1. Thanks, Narelle. And I agree re all those entertainment options out there today for our kids or grandkids. They are wonderful (well, mostly!) but just different from reading and all the pleasure and knowledge and understanding that gives. But just yesterday, I was pleased to see and to hear how our twelve year old granddaughter, while owning an Ipad and Iphone and other games devices, has all her books by her current favourite author, Raoul Dahl, lined up on her shelves in her bedroom.

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  8. All so true, Jo-Anne. I dread the day we move from this house and I have to decide what to do with my walls of books. I often look at them and wish I could share them more than I do. The thought that so many now and so many in the future will not have books to hold in their hand, will not get the pleasure and learning of reading or will choose to read everything digitally, makes me really sad.

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    1. I agree with all you've said, Carol! Perhaps when the time comes, we could do what a friend of ours who is well-known in mentoring circles has done recently, which is to think of all his friends and past mentorees etc and pray about which book to pass onto each of them from his large collection, then give the book to them personally and explain why he thought it was right for them. Kind of a lovely way of blessing each person and passing on something of ourselves, don't you think?

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    2. That does sound lovely, Jo-Anne. I'll keep that in mind.

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  9. Have had a similar experience from removalists with our boxes of books. My mum read to me and taught me to read at age four and I have had a book in my hands ever since. When our children were babies we read to them from the start and now they have done the same to their own children. What a blessing. They all love books.

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    1. What a joy for you to see this love of books passing down through the generations for you, Dale! I remember how my husband taught our son to read when he was about four or five too. Each night, he would read to him, particularly from a Richard Scarry book 'Fun With Words', which was like a lovely, creative picture dictionary. Now, our son is a high school Maths Master--but he's still good at words too!

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  10. Lovely post, Jo-Anne. We have so many books have been trying to sell or give away some. Well, we do need more space for all the new books we want. I am so thankful our grandchildren's shelves are overflowing with books. However, the eldest these days are also making their own animation "stories" now with their clever electronic "gadgets". I hope one day they will want to put their own stories also into published books - perhaps even e-books? Hey! A published grandmother can always dream, can't she? LOL.

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    1. Thanks, Mary. I remember those crammed bookshelves at your place! And it would not surprise me at all if one of your beautiful grandchildren became a published author too. You have sure shown them it is possible anyway.

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  11. Great post, Jo-Anne. I can totally relate and am happy to report that when my daughter shifted into her house she had boxes of books.

    My own books were in boxes for many years until my husband built me a room full of shelves. I must admit I cried with joy! Books are friends and I love reading to any children who visit my book room.

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    1. Thanks, Elaine. Right now I am imagining (with just a little touch of envy!) your special room with its shelves full of all your 'book friends' and you sitting in the middle of them all, reading or writing or just relaxing. What bliss! May those children who visit find it to be a special place too and come to love books as well.

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