I consider myself to be rather empathetic but one thing I fail to understand is the presence of people in the developed world who fail to learn how to read - free books are quite literally everywhere and education is free and universal.
I have loved books since I can remember. The intro to my book blog says, "time allowing I love to read", however, when my fiance read that he laughed and said, "Time not allowing you love to read" because I'm always pulling my book out even when it is not entirely appropriate to do so. I now blissfully read e-books on the iPhone. I have no desire to even own an eReader because with the Kindle for iPhone app I can read books anywhere: in packed trains, in meetings, at boring dinners and dull parties without looking antisocial. It's socially acceptable to be gawking at a phone the whole time; pulling out a book? Not so much.
My parents sent me to a school that was well supplied with books and I took full advantage of that. It was compulsory to read a little bit every day. Ideally, each child was to read to their parents for thirty minutes, Monday to Friday, and get a form signed. I generally read on my own. If I didn't like the book I was on, I didn't read it and got my mum to sign the form anyway, I later became adept at copying her signature. I realise now that the compulsory reading list was set because there was something to be gained from each of those books but I did read the majority of what was set so I'll forgive myself.
On holidays, I was allowed to take home as many books as I thought I could read. As a keeno nine or ten year-old one Easter, I took home about twenty books and finished them all in a week. They were all very simple with big writing and pictures but I still remember Mr Crabb, my reading teacher at the time, remarking at the volume I was taking home. It was a lot more than anyone else. It took almost six years to finish the extensive compulsory reading list after which I was placed on "library" which basically meant I was allowed to pick books of my choice from the school library. That was more an illusion though because when the librarian saw how much Enid Blyton I was consuming she banned me from reading those books for fear I would regress.
One of the fondest memories I have of my childhood involves afternoons sitting on a lump of sand outside our house (I picked the sand over the grass because it was like a huge mound of beach sand and I could mould a chair in it for myself) following lunch and savouring a book for a couple of hours before I went out to play. I couldn't tell you what I read in those afternoons all I remember is that I felt more than content. I was happy. I enjoy reading for the sake of reading; reading is pleasurable - for me it is an end in itself not a means to an end. To this day, one of my fantasies is reaching a point in my life when I can just sit and read all day, every day without a care in the world, no school or bills to worry about. I acknowledge that the fantasy is probably better than the reality - I need more than books to enjoy life.
I read very little in high school and university because there was far less available but also because I decided to focus on academia. Reading and the academics are absolutely compatible but I am a compulsive reader; when I'm reading a good book, I don't want to stop. Indeed, on the occasions that I did locate something worthy, I read it in all my lessons. I just stuck the book in between a text books and read it in all my lessons. I'm sure the teachers wondered why I was quiet on such days but they didn't ask, choosing instead to enjoy peace from my incessant questions.
This brings me to the point of this note. How is it possible to grow up in country where libraries are 100% free and grow up not only without a passion for the written word but also without the ability to read?