From the post-apocalyptic wasteland of American culture rises a new hero. Wielding books as bridges between disparate segments of society, they are known as The Read Warriors.
You, too, can become a legend in your own time. It’s such a simple concept you’ll wonder why it didn’t occur to you before. Or maybe it has (hey, I’m not the only genius around here). Since you’re reading this blog, chances are you like to read. Think fast: is there a particular book (or books) you’d like to share with the rest of the world, books that impart hope or wisdom or are just plain fun? Now, think of someone who is different than you and share that book with them. The difference could be age, nationality, race, gender, education, religion, political beliefs, social beliefs or a combination of these things. Here’s the kicker: in exchange for this person reading the book you recommend, you will read one that they recommend.
When you’re both done reading the recommended books, have a chat- -in person, on the phone, over the internet. Did something about the other person’s book surprise you? Do you understand and appreciate the differences between you and the other person better than you did before? Did you realize you have more in common with this person than you once believed? If something in the book puzzled or provoked you, ask a respectfully phrased question or two to express these concerns. In short, let the books help you build a bridge to better understanding.
This might sound scary, but remember, you’re a Read Warrior. You have the courage to reach out and take this risk, sharing your perspective with someone who is not like you. The object is not to agree but to understand. To appreciate each other is the gold standard.
How do we build the Read Warrior society?
I’m starting at the local library. In last week’s blog I expressed concern that kids today might be missing the books I enjoyed as a child. I fear that some of the classics will be lost to us through neglect and put this idea to the Prescott librarian: how can we pair adults with kids for the purpose of book sharing? Ms. Librarian furrowed her brow, said it sounded like a good idea and promised to think of ways to make it happen.
Another approach: talk to people on public transit which, by nature, is a melting pot. Are you reading a book? Is the person sitting next to you reading a book? Swap titles, find a copy and give it a try. If no one is reading, strike up a conversation about the Read Warrior concept and see where it leads.
Oh no! Did you somehow fall into an argument over conflicting political or social views? Throw a wrench into the argument by asking, “What’s your favorite book?” Exchange titles and agree to read and discuss the books at a later date. Then, go back to arguing.
Do you prefer to read fiction? Find someone who prefers to read nonfiction. Swap, read, discuss.
What about people who don’t like to read? This may be the Read Warrior’s most difficult challenge. Ask them how they get their stories- -movies, television, video games? There may be a way you can entice them into reading the book that underlies the screen play or the world of the video game. Do they listen to audio books? Is this close enough to reading? You tell me.
Much as I, personally, love reading, I recognize that it’s not universally enjoyed. A 2014 Pew Research Center study found that nearly a quarter of American adults hadn’t read a book in the past year. This includes listening to audio books. The number of adult non-book readers has nearly tripled since 1978. However, younger readers seem to be holding the line. The study is covered in detail here:
The goal of being a Read Warrior is to build understanding through communication; specifically, communicating about books. Public libraries are a great equalizer for readers without disposable income. The path to Read Warriorship is open to anyone who likes to read and has a passionate interest in building a bridge to people who are different than ourselves.
See you on the bridge.
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