Reading Expands The Universe

David - Coto de Caza, California
Entered on December 5, 2008
Age Group: 18 - 30

Mark Twain said, “The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them.” Is an easily-accessible passive media limiting our advantages in understanding our world? I believe that reading good books opens the doors to the universe.

Those doors creaked open for me through a set of children’s picture books about nature when I was only four years old. I begged my mother to read them to me over and over and carried them with me wherever I went. Not content with devouring them myself I eagerly shared them with anyone who looked even remotely interested, from the neighbor’s dog to the teenage box boy at the market. My love of good books began even before I was old enough to read them myself. I believe that having access to good books opens the door to inquisitiveness.

During the two years I spent as a volunteer missionary in northern Portugal I met Vitor, a thirty-year-old Portuguese man who was illiterate. As I came to know Vitor I grieved for the sense of imprisonment that his inability to read had created in his life. It was as if he was confined to a small room in which the only door out remained firmly locked. Street signs, food labels, newspapers, magazines, instructions, the children’s homework, literally anything put into writing rendered his own language unintelligible to him. The only words he could read and write were his own name. If only I could give him the key of literacy that would open the door to his world. I believe that the ability to read good books unlocks the door to intellectual freedom.

If you can read, if you hold the key, the choice is yours: imprisonment or freedom. Each new book opens another door and expands the universe. History, geology, physics, anatomy, astronomy, poetry. The opportunities are as limitless as the universe itself! What a magnificent gift is the ability to read. What a tragedy to waste this gift by reading books of little value or worse, by reading nothing at all. Turn off the T.V. Open a book. William Shakespeare, Plato, Jane Austin, Jonathan Swift, Willa Cather, Isaac Asimov or even the Encyclopedia Britannica. The universe awaits.