The Man Who Does Not Read

“The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read.” – Mark Twain

This week we celebrated International Literacy Day so I’ve chosen a quote about the ability to read. 

I’ve actually picked this quote because I disagree with it. Not the idea that choosing never to read would be a limiting thing. Of course it would. I disagree with the idea that it is possible to have the ability to read but not do it.

Things have changed a lot since Mark Twain gave us this concept. At one time, reading meant letters and books. Now words are everywhere and reading is no longer a choice but a necessary life skill.

We have the internet now so lifelong learning has become the norm. We can get any information we need, whenever we need it – provided we can read.

There are a lot of everyday things I could not do if I couldn’t read. For a start, I’m an author. How would I write books if I couldn’t read? How would I research, fact check, revise and edit?

I write travel mysteries. How would I get a passport and visas and book trips or even get in the right queue at the airport if I could not read? 

And that’s just my job. What would you not be able to do if you couldn’t read? How would children learn if they could not read? Most of us can’t learn through listening alone.

In dark times, such as war years and, of course, pandemic years, I would say entertainment is important, too. What may once have seemed frivolous is now integral to our wellbeing.

Even if you don’t learn anything from a book or blog you read for pleasure, the positive impact on your mental health is well worth the effort. If it makes you laugh, all the better.

Keeping in touch with people we care about is another thing we can’t do without. In Mr Twain’s time, people wrote letters. Today many of us use social media to connect with friends and family. During lockdown, I relied on social media just to know people I care about were still there!

Even people who never pick up a book are readers. Whether they read for work, keeping in touch, or general adulting – they read.

We are all individuals and what we do with our reading skill is our own choice. The important thing is that we have the ability. Then we have choices.

Of course, the world continues to move forward and we now have audiobooks, text-to-speech apps, and AI virtual assistants. So everyone can benefit from reading, one way or another.

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