The Right to Read

There are some things we take for granted. One of them is the ability to read. I am sure you remember the very first time you read a sentence aloud. It more than likely brought excitement to you and to those who witnessed your accomplishment. It probably motivated you and helped to open your mind to the larger world around you.

Perhaps, one book led to another and another. Educators will be among the first to tell you that reading is basic and fundamental to every aspect of learning. As we celebrate African-American (Black) History month we must not overlook the importance of reading.

Frederick Douglass, who was born a slave in 1818 in Maryland, embraced the importance of reading. Douglass was exposed to reading as a slave. At one point in his life, he met a man named Wilson at a local church. A short time later they started their own Sunday school for blacks. Douglass would later become a world-renowned journalist, newspaper publisher and a major voice for freedom. It was a voice he developed from his learning to read and write.

History will show that reading was instrumental in helping to open doors of opportunity to an enslaved people. During those early and painful years of African-American history, books were banned for people of color. There was a belief that permitting African-Americans to read would help them see and understand their current condition. In the Deep South laws were passed forbidding slaves to learn to read or write and making it a crime for others to teach them. Today, there are no longer such restrictions to reading and yet so few people seem to exercise this right.

A recent Harris poll reveals that overall just 16% of Americans read between 11 and 20 books a year with one in five reading 21 or more books in a year. In fact, the poll shows that adults who own e-readers (Kindle, Nook, or Ipad) read more. The Harris poll also reveals that regardless of how few people are reading that those who exercise this right are drawn to certain types of books. Among those who say they read at least one book in an average year, three-quarters say they read both fiction (76%) and non-fiction (76%).

I read a variety of books, many of them connected with my ministry as a pastor and my job as a television journalist. However, I have my favorite. I want to recommend a book filled with truth and freedom. It is the Holy Bible. It remains one of the best-selling books. It’s the same book the Apostle Paul recommended to Timothy, his son in the ministry, and the people he was assigned to lead. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16) Today, make a commitment to read and to read often. Remember, it’s a right.

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