The Joy and the Good of Reading


Rebecca could hardly wait to open the package her mother was holding. Every month she received a book addressed to her from the Imagination Library which is supported through the Dollywood Foundation.* This had been happening since she was born five years ago.

Last month’s book was, “The Little Engine That Could.” She loved the story, but in particular she loved sitting close to either her mother or father when they read to her.

With her first books she liked the colour, turning the pages and looking at the pictures. Now that she could read a few words with the help of her parents it was exciting to say words such as toy, or dog and see the picture in front of her.

We all know the amazing benefits that come from reading. In 1820 only 12% of the population fifteen or over could read. Now it is 86%.

The 14% who are not considered literate (the ability to read and write) total approximately one billion people and there are many degrees of ability amongst those who are considered literate.

Canada’s literacy rate sits 11th in the world. Surprisingly, Uzbekistan is the most literate. Ukraine is second. Chad has the lowest level.

In Canada the Indigenous community is the least literate and 70% of Canada’s prison population struggle with literacy. Many are Indigenous.

Life is tough if you cannot read. How can you follow instructions on medicine bottles, fill in job applications, enjoy a good story or learn about almost anything?

People who are literate have higher incomes, better health and more opportunities. The contents of books have opened careers, started movements and contained the guideline for religions.

Many people who read, read only magazines or newspapers and an increasing number, only snippets on social media. This is and will be an increasingly large problem in all societies.

I am surprised and feel sorry for the many educated people I speak with who read at the most one or two books a year. They miss a lot.

In contrast, Bill Gates reads over 100 books a year. This adds to his knowledge, resulting in his many amazing innovations.

It has been suggested I write a review of some of my favorite books. I read a lot of magazines, newspapers and internet stories. The 30 plus books I read every year are mainly history, biography/autobiography, world affairs, human behaviour and social justice, plus a few mysteries and some good novels. I probably learn more from novels than from other books. Having written a number of factual books based on my experiences I marvel at the ability to write a novel.

I am in a book club with 12 other men. Many of us have been friends for over 60 years. It was started by a few of us who liked to read. We were all lamenting on our lack of ability to remember what we have read for any length of time. Discussing a book every month or so keeps us together, remembering what we have read and is the source of some fabulous discussions. Our choices sometimes take us into areas we know little about.

Pat’s book club reads mainly novels and enjoys them as much for their literature as their content.

Although there are many books I like and would recommend, books that I like might not meet with your interests and tastes. That being said, many of my Good News view’s come from these books. Next blog I will share some of my favourite books.

If you wish to help encourage literacy here are a few organizations, you can help:

Imagination Library https://imaginationlibrary.com/

The Dollywood Foundation’s Imagination Library was started by Dolly Parton in 1995 to inspire children to achieve academic success. They provide a book every month to children from birth until age 5 in a few different countries, including Canada. Many of these children are Indigenous. In April 2021 they announced the milestone of 30,000 books being gifted in Canada per month. As of July 2021, 2 million books have been gifted in Canada. A donation of $25 U.S. provides one book/month to a child for a year. https://donate.imaginationlibrary.com/

Frontier College https://www.frontiercollege.ca/

Started to help immigrants working on the railroad in Northern Ontario to learn English, it has broadened its mandate to help many marginalized groups, including Indigenous Peoples and prisoners. Their focus is Canada.

CW4WAFGHAN https://cw4wafghan.ca/home/

This organization helps women in Afghanistan become educated, much of it is literacy.

World Literacy https://worldliteracyfoundation.org/

Their mission is to lift young people around the world out of poverty through literacy.

You can also go to Canada Helps for other possible organizations https://www.canadahelps.org/en/

Til next time,

Chris Snyder

*Please pass along this blog to friends who you think may be interested.

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