“The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them.”
- Mark Twain
I was reminded of this saying today. I was reading a book at work, trying to pass the long stretches of time between customers. A coworker asked what I was reading and I mentioned political theory, Montesquieu, and John Locke. He seemed interested and then told me of his grim circumstances. Being so burdened by school work and reading assignments, he has very little time to read for fun.
Luckily though, he’s been able to pick up Tim Tebow’s new book and begin reading it. We both admire Tebow, as many people do. We admire him for the reasons that so many others hate him. He’s a Christian who isn’t afraid to talk about it. Some may see Tebow as self-righteous, but once people get past their anger and jealousy, they’ll see that he’s a genuine guy who loves God. He’s a great role model in a time when there aren’t many out there. He’s also dyslexic.
This was of great importance to my coworker, because he is dyslexic as well. Now, I’d heard of dyslexia, but I didn’t really know what it was. In a show of ignorance I asked, “Like you read words backwords?” Ha. No, not really. Sounds like it’s a reading disorder that makes it difficult to read, especially at the speed that everyone else does. The way it was described to me was this: When a normal reads the word “tree”, they can immediately think of a tree, and what it looks like. When someone with dyslexia reads the word “tree” they first read the word, think of how to say the word, make sure they read the word right, then imagine the tree, then move on to the next word.
It’s because of all this that it takes people with dyslexia so long to read. Imagine instead of reading a sentence as a complete sentence, you read it as individual words. You’d lose your place, have to re-read, and in the end, you’d be lucky if you had any idea what the last chapter was about. Sounds like it must suck. Now, my coworker is a really smart guy. He’s in college at the moment, preparing for a career as a music instructor. He’s managed to overcome his reading disorder.
There are a lot of people out there with dyslexia. There are also a lot more people who can’t even read at all – just because they’re illiterate. For instance, according to UNICEF, in Kenya, males between the ages of 15-24 have a 92% illiteracy rate. Females are just a bit worse – 94%. Sounds awful right? The vast majority of Kenyan’s cannot read. But hey, that’s not a problem in America, right? Wrong. In 2011 a shocking report came out of Detroit, claiming that 47% of adults were functionally illiterate. That’s better than Kenya, but still REALLY bad.
Now, we could go into everything we could do to fix the problem. Better schools, more funding for adults education programs, more foreign aid for countries like Kenya. We could also train teachers to look out for symptoms of dyslexia, and teach them how to work with it in the classroom. I have no doubt that there are tons of great ideas out there. But that’s not the point.
The point is that there are people in this world who either have a lot of trouble reading, or cannot read at all. Those of us who can pick up a book and read it like nothing, enjoy it, learn from it; we shouldn’t take that for granted. Furthermore, if we can read, we should. Sometimes we don’t see all of our blessings, but reading truly is one of them. If you can read – read. Some people would love to have what you have.