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Gerardo Castillo Ceballos, Professor of the School of Education and Psychology of the University of Navarra

The decline of reading: from bibliophilia to bibliophobia

Fri, 31 Aug 2018 13:16:00 +0000 Published in Diario de Navarra, Heraldo de Aragón and El diario montañés

The loss of interest in reading (especially among young people) is increasing by leaps and bounds. Four out of ten Spaniards are "immune to the charms of books". That is the main conclusion of the Barómetro de Hábitos de Lectura y Compra de Libros en la España de 2017, belonging to the Federación de Gremios de Editores de España.

There are fewer and fewer bibliophiles (lovers of books and reading) and more and more bibliophobes (fearful of books because of negative reading experiences; also because they see them as something obsolete that clashes with new modes of information). In some environments, book reading is being considered as a mere fad of the past, not as a means to satisfy the permanent need to know and to be a more cultured person.

subject Currently, all kinds of surveys and programs of study are being conducted to find out why many young people today tend to avoid reading books. Parents are often blamed for not valuing reading in their family.

Antonio Mingote drew a pragmatic father advising his son:

"First you have to become a man of profit, with a careful Education , solid training and firm principles. Then you can read some books.

Most students today limit themselves to the compulsory reading required by teachers. This is a mistake, since what most discourages reading is doing it only out of obligation. If we make it a chore it will be seen as tedious.

The love of reading is not achieved by imposition or competition; it gives more result to have books at home on various subjects, including comics; to have them within reach of the children; to see parents and siblings reading; to visit bookstores together: to allow the free choice of books, within those that are recommended for each age group according to psychological and ethical criteria.

Two causes of disinterest in reading that, in my opinion, are very important, are not often mentioned. The first is the haste that characterizes today's life. Young people love excessive speed, but there is something more worrying: haste. The worst thing is not the burning out of stages on a road trip, but the burning out of the stages of life itself. That is a life in which we get the impression that we don't have time to read a book or have a leisurely conversation with a friend. We think that sending a WhatsApp is enough. We prefer to watch a video about a historical figure rather than read his biography, because the latter requires reflection and more time.

A second cause: the media of Digital Communication and the wide range of entertainment on their platforms, available to anyone and without any effort, makes students have been losing the habit of reading. This leads to deficiencies in vocabulary, spelling and oral and written expression, which are closely related to school failure.

When I was a university student in the 1960s, traveling in the Madrid Metro was like traveling in a rolling Library Services . Most of the passengers, especially the younger ones, remained engrossed in reading a book all the way. I did not take that Metro again until 15 years later; I observed with astonishment and sorrow that almost all the passengers were hooked not to a book, but to a mobile.

Many people ignore that the continuous, calm and reflective reading of a book brings us much more than reading fleeting messages on the "mobile". The acquisition of knowledge through reading books has a unique value, because it keeps the mind active and stimulates various cognitive processes. For this reason, it has been highly praised by great writers. Two examples:

"Let others boast of the pages they have written. I am proud of the pages I have read" (Jorge Luis Borges).

For the poet Wislawa Szymborska, the magic of literature lies in the fact that it makes us (at least for a while) freer. "Reading books is the most glorious pastime mankind has devised."

I suggest that young people who are not very fond of books read two well-known novels. One is "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee; the other is entitled "Treasure Island" by Robert L. Stevenson. They are two literary gems that grab the reader from the very beginning. They have been made into movies, with great success.

This can be the first step in creating a relationship with thousands of new friends who always have time for whoever is knocking at their door: books.