The Obligations

Author Neil Gaiman recently gave a lecture at The Reading Agency. He spoke about the importance of libraries and reading, and specifically how essential to our human society it is to foster the love of reading in our children. You can read his lecture here. As often happens to me when I read something powerful, Mr. Gaiman’s lecture got me to thinking about my own experience. I agree wholeheartedly with him that we need to preserve and support our public libraries.

I visit my local library several times a month to prevent withdrawal symptoms. They have what I need and a steady supply of it: books.

During the years I homeschooled my son, our favorite excursion was our weekly trip to the library. It beat out park days, museum visits, even a day at the zoo. Our book bag was never large enough to carry all the treasures we discovered. At first all of our books were borrowed on my library card. But at the tender age of six, my son insisted he have his own card. From then on, he had no difficulty approaching the librarian with a request for a specific book.

These days he mostly asks his school librarian for suggestions, but on the occasional lazy Saturday he’ll ask me to take him to our local public library. He browses the stacks for books his school doesn’t have and considers himself a renegade if he borrows a (gasp) book for adults.

Back to Mr. Gaiman’s lecture. He spoke about the “obligations all of us—as readers, as writers, as citizens” have. He says we are obligated to read for pleasure, in both public and private places. He says we must read aloud to our kids and use our language. He says we have an obligation to use our imaginations. And here’s me again, thinking about my own experience. Do I agree that these are meaningful responsibilities? Yes, I do. And I’ll reflect on them in upcoming posts.