I had the good fortune to grow up in a home where books were commonplace. We didn't have a fancy television with luxuries like remote controls, a viewable picture, or channels that weren't 4, 5, or 8! We had clunky box with tinfoil-encrusted rabbit ears. Changing the channel required a pair of pliers, a short walk, and a certain fearlessness about being electrocuted whilst cramming a metal instrument into the bowels of a decrepit electronic device.
My dad's huge entertainment center didn't hold a flat panel tv. It had a record player, stereo speakers, stacks of record albums, and books. Row after row of books.
There was another tall book case full of paperbacks in the garage. My dad's taste leaned toward sci-fi and the like, perfect for a burgeoning young reader to pick up and enjoy. On those endless summer days between middle school years, I would wander out to the garage and browse the covers for something interesting. I read Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Larry Niven, Stephen King, Greg Bear, Tolkien, and many others. There was some seriously good stuff out there.
I had my own books that I picked up at various book fairs. I was a regular at the school library. I think I read every Hardy Boys book in existence. I always wanted to go for a ride in Chet's sweet jalopy. I read Where the Red Fern Grows, Old Yeller, and The Call of the Wild over and over again. After I discovered my first Lord of The Rings book and brushed off the dust bunnies, I barely slept a minute in the next two days
Books were important to me, and they are important now. Language and entertainment have moved toward the quick and easy. I have hour after hour of shows on my dvr (Doctor Who is paused right now as I type this). I send a hundred fragmented e-mails every day at work. Text messages have transformed writing from an art or a pleasure into a terse, joyless expediency to get through as quickly as possible. Heck, I can misspell every word, and Big Brother iPhone will helpfully correct it all.
I believe that I am a better, more intelligent person from all the reading I have done in my life. I hope people keep reading. I hope I do. Most of all, I hope my little boy can somehow resist the ubiquitous Nintendo DS'es, the endless wonders of the internet, and the hundreds of channels of digital cable. I hope some day that he will wander out to my bookshelf, brush off a dusty cover, and settle in for a good read.