World Book Day 2016

Today is World Book Day. My immediate thoughts are taken back over twenty years to my high school biology classroom with Mr Dickson as I learnt the subject for my standard grades. He told my class that the longest book some people will read other than our exam paper would be a catalogue that came through the door selling clothes to household goods. It simply took my breath away that some could ever read so little in their lifetime. Coming back to the present I find myself wondering how many now would not read anything more than Facebook posts to Tweets, which brings a few tears to my eyes.
 
However, given the average reading age of the UK population is 9 years – that is, they have achieved the reading ability normally expected of a 9 year old, should I really be so surprised? I discovered recently that The Guardian newspaper has a reading age of 14 and the Sun has a reading age of 8. As someone who reads a lot each day, websites to academic journals to books (fiction and non-fiction) I realise part of me takes for granted this skill and the academic study I did. I first started to learn age four and my eldest niece is beginning to master it, which is beautiful to see. Unlike writing, which I could not do on starting school and still so tiny that many ask for a magnifying glass!
 
Books are ways to get lost in adventures or learn how to do new things, sharing one with a child with funny voices is something enjoyable and laughing out loud on the bus when caught should be smiled upon. However, I am aware some find this difficult due to dyslexia, I cannot imagine how difficult it can be in a world that focuses much on the written word, especially that upon the screen. Nevertheless, books should not be confined to the classroom or bedtime, but instead of mobile phones stuck in our hands with our faces and hands glued to them replace them with a novel, play, poetry, or kindle. Ask friends for suggestions and get caught reading something other than your Facebook news feed, as may find unlike when at school you may enjoy doing it.
 
© Fi S. J. Brown
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The written word: Past, present and future

What would our ancestors say of how we tell stories via the written word, when many could not do so. Instead they would use art from painting and music to tell them and pass them on to the next generation. Even today being able to read and write is a luxury that many of us that can, forget.

Something I have often pondered is, if time travel were possible when or what would I most like to visit. I decided recently that for me it would be the ancient library in Alexandria because I would not only like to see what was in it but ultimately what was in it and answering who really did set fire to it.

The thought of books on fire reminded me of the excellent “Fahrenheit 451” by Ray Bradbury. The book tells of a dystopian future vision of America in which books are banned and if found they are burnt. When I first read it over 15 years ago I could not imagine a world with no books.

However, today we have electronic readers today such as kindles, the word always reminds me of kindling. I will admit to not being much of a fan as love the smell and feel of books. So are they kindling of the fire to destroy books and the written word? No, I would not go quite that far.

However, it does make me wonder about edits to texts, books we regard as classics, if the original text will remain unaltered? Then again, how many books we do read now have gone through changes? The Bible, has probably been spun and purposefully mistranslated for centuries.

I have this concern as have heard it with music, as an artist produces a remastered greatest hits with subtle changes in the music from the originals. Equally, I have seen edits in movies and television, to make them more suitable for a set time frame or feel something isn’t appropriate any more.

So what is the future for the written word? More and more we are publishing our own work, from fan fiction to novels, but are people actually reading more? Yet original creative thought and work seems to be declining, as we see and hear old ideas rehashed. I can only hope for the future.

© Fi S. J. Brown

The Desert Island

To answer the old puzzle: “If you could only take three things to a desert island, what would you bring and why?” Excluding a boat, car, helicopter, plane etc. but can take a person fictional or real. I say…

The first thing I would bring would be a wind-up radio, so I would have the sounds of company and music to keep my heart and soul going through however many days I was going to be on the island.

Next I  would take a solar powered notebook, so I could write about my experiences as and when they happened, not relying on memory and also things inspired by what happened on the desert island.

Finally, I spend much of my days alone, so having company would be a bonus. So I would take a Swiss army knife, as would have more in it than a single gadget could alone provide me with.

However, I am far from materialistic, so uncertain whether or not the three items above would really make a difference to my experiences on the island. So on rethinking what my three would be instead…

Perhaps I’d ask for my health to be on it’s best form, so all my senses would take the most from the experience without worrying on getting ill from the wrong things. Sadly for me that is too much ego.

Maybe a book of 100 opening chapters (fiction and non), acts or selection of poetry by my favourite authors that had inspired me when I had read them? Yet, would that benefit my experience, no.

Three of my closest friends from different places, so could continue to inspire and support me as we do for each other now. I feel bad at wanting another there for my own needs, so again maybe not to be.

Finally, I decide I do not want to take anything or anyone with me because in life we have to rely on past knowledge and experience, following our instincts to get us through. Therefore, and so shall I.

© Fi S. J. Brown