“A book is a fragile creature, it suffers the wear of time, it fears rodents, the elements and clumsy hands. so the librarian protects the books not only against mankind but also against nature and devotes his life to this war with the forces of oblivion.”
I care about your mind. I just can’t help it. I want you to be a better thinker, a better writer, a better person, and the only way I know how to make this happen is to encourage you to read more. The Book Oblivion Story is about my desire to see adult literacy increase all over the world.
Book Oblivion began with the idea that I wanted to rescue books from oblivion. But let me tell you a little secret, it’s not about the books. It’s about you. Here’s how it all began…
I entered the college classroom as a young 20-something professor. You know what I found in the classroom? A bunch of college students just like me when I was their age. I’m not here to judge millennials, after all, I am one — and actually quite proud to be a product of my generation. My parents were hard working boomers and modeled an incredible work ethic to me. I wasn’t even a decade ahead of the students I taught, and even now, I’m maybe 12-13 years ahead of my average student.
So what do I mean when I say they were just like me? In high school, I read what I wanted to, and it was rarely required reading. I did my friend’s homework. I did entire reports on books after only reading a chapter. I let people copy my homework pretty much daily. Just like my students, I figured out how to get by and helped others along the way. My thoughts were if you could game the system, you should. If you can’t, then it deserves my hard-work and respect. And I quickly discovered, my students thought the same way.
Just like them, I learned pretty quickly that it was hard to game college. And I like to think I designed my classroom and curricula to avoid those attempts. I gave tons of extensions, assigned very little reading outside of class, and asked them to think long and hard about what we read and discussed in class. Was my approach perfect? Hardly. Students still cheated. Students still failed.
But more often than not, students built enthusiasm for what they researched in class. Many wanted to be better writers. And believe it or not, some wanted to read more. Reading is like a drug; I knew if they got a little taste of it, they’d be back for more. For most of them, it’s been a part of their neural circuitry since they were younger. Most children love reading at some point in their lives. The reason most people love reading is that they love stories. Now before you go and protest and tell me the only thing you read is non-fiction, allow me to explain. Non-fiction helps us read stories better, and the more you read it, the better able you are to write the greatest story of all, your own.
So what happens to this love of reading? I have a hard time believing it’s been entirely replaced by screens like the modern Luddites would have you believe. There are plenty of stories being told on those screens which ought to affirm and perpetuate the same love of story that began at a young age. I suspect the decline comes from one of two places stemming from the same cause: boredom.
Children are either bored because the reading is too advanced or not advanced enough. The love of stories never goes away, but the movie on the screen replaces the movie in their brain unless the pages of books grasp their imaginations in a way that lasts until the next book.
I suppose I’ve always loved learning and books were a natural extension of that. I saw music albums, television, and athletics in much the same way, though. I could “read” an album like a book, and after a while, many musicians understood their music was telling a bigger story. The best shows on TV did the same.
So how do we get back to that life-altering, mind-bending, imagination igniting a love of stories in the pages of our books?
Step one is understanding how every story points to a creator. If we begin there, those written words become much more exciting and we can start to understand the human condition in its fragile and fallen state. Kids crave complexity and love to be challenged. They are never too young to learn that life can be hard and has a bajillion obstacles. That’s the magic right there. Every story points to truth and we are on a mission to help others discover that no matter how old they are. I might not have all the answers, but I invite you to come along for the ride as we tap into the magic along the way.