People should try to embrace joy of reading

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I want to express my views about a recent poll that found that one in four adults in the United States read no books in the past year.

This information was difficult for me to digest, because when I frequent my favorite bookstores, I see lots of adults purchasing books. So this poll's results are astounding and depressing for me.

I guess it's safe for me to say that my perception isn't the reality. The National Endowment for the Arts report "To Read or Not To Read" shows similar results. Although there has been an increase in reading in elementary schools, progress appears to halt when the children become teenagers, and this trend continues into adulthood.

Reading is declining among college graduates also. And NEA data also show 65 percent of college freshmen read for pleasure less than an hour a week; the percentage of non-readers has nearly doubled; and poor reading skills affects one's quality of life.

It's a sad state of affairs to know that fewer Americans are reading books. Reading is a necessary activity that all of us must embrace. There is so much knowledge to be acquired by reading. And I'm not stating what I've been told, but what I have experienced.

WHEN I GO into a bookstore, I become that kid in the candy store. The excitement and exhilaration in this type of atmosphere just overwhelm me. There always are so many great books for me to purchase, I become discombobulated. Of course, this happens to me for all of the right reasons. This becomes my world of euphoria.

I'm well aware that when I read books, my mind is expanded with enrichment and enlightenment. By acquiring these attributes, I'm able to elevate my mind to a higher level. Reading books translates into people acquiring wisdom and knowledge, which empowers them to be the best that they can be. Avid book readers truly strive and excel.

Of the many things I learn from reading books, I actually put these things into practice. Book-reading has helped me overcome obstacles in life. This is why I truly enjoy reading autobiographies, because these writers reveal their life stories as a means of providing road maps for others in helping them avoid many of life's obstacles and pitfalls. What better advice can book readers acquire from people who have been there and done that?

Also, reading books allows me to rid my mind of a lot of ignorant nonsense that was thrust upon me by others during my formative years. Book-reading has matured me to the point where I don't let others control, exploit and think for me, because I can do all of these things for myself without unproductive assistance from others.

NORMALLY, I READ at least one book per month -- unless I'm on a real reader's high. Then I will read three books a month. Reading books isn't going to kill me, but educate me. And if being educated is wrong, than I don't want to be right.

I applaud J. K. Rowling for her sensational series of Harry Potter books. She has created a reading atmosphere in which millions of young people who have read her books are going to evolve into lifelong, avid book-reading adults. Is this great or what?

I also have to acknowledge Oprah Winfrey, who has gotten millions of American adults excited about reading books through her television book club. She is definitely a book-reading advocate for our country. Without question, she's a super-fantastic, living American legend.

I think it's time for our great nation to bury this thing known as functional illiteracy, because it has done great harm to our culture. We must encourage one another to read books because it's just the right thing to do.

(The writer is a former Richmond County public school teacher with 31 years of teaching service. He lives in Augusta.)

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