How are books like bicycles?

November 18, 2009 at 2:46 am Leave a comment

In the Fall 2009 edition of Children’s Book News, Tim Wynne-Jones  compares books to riding a bicycle. I must admit I was puzzled about the title, and being of a curious nature, I had to read on.

Tim begins his opinion column reminding the reader that when the Canadian Children’s Book Centre came into being, there  was no Xbox, no Super Nintendo, no Wii games, not even Hotmail, Google, Twitter or text messaging. There were blackberries, and those were seasonal, not the kind executives, and others, use to check email and pounce on their phone the minute the phone rings.

He writes, “We have come a long way.”  As long as he’s been writing, there have been predictions of the book falling into oblivion. The doomsmen say that illiteracy is a problem, and that television is a cause of that illiteracy. What do we make of  that?

Wynne-Jones says that to text message, blog, and hang out in chat rooms online, one must be able to read. He concedes that children do not read, not that they cannot. I agree that the electronic  games can be serious distractions.  How can the book compete? “Where’s the time to curl up with a book?” he asks.

Wynne-Jones feels the book is here to stay and that nothing can really replace it. I’m glad of that and being a book lover myself, I agree.

Here’s where the bicycle comes in. “Nothing replaces bicycles either, despite every advance in transportation.” Wynne-Jones seems to veer away from books momentarily when he discusses how one can go places on a bicycle that we cannot go with a car.  A bicycle represents independence and the ability to go somewhere alone.

 “All of these same qualities … can be ascribed to a  book.” A child can exercise imagination. There’s no batteries to wear out, no one way to travel. At each  turn of the page, it’s like going off by oneself, exploring new territory. Unlike watching a movie, the reader exercises the brain “she was born with,”  making things up along the way, building a “scaffolding of words upon which we hang what we know of people, what we know of landscape” and the knowledge we have of the world around us.

While Wynne-Jones was writing his Rex Zero books, he says that he was taken back to a time of bicycles and books and a world of wonder.  He insists that children still want what a book can offer and he urges parents and guardians to put books in their children’s hands.

While I may not read about Rex Zero, I agree that there’s plenty to offer a child, or anyone for that matter, adventure, independence, knowledge, and a stretching of borders where bicycles can go and cars cannot.

Read to learn, read to imagine, read to explore the world.  Put books in your children’s hands, but also pick one up and read for yourself. Enjoy the adventure!

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