Get a Bang Out of Reading

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Japan 1Most years the Kentucky Derby Festival (in my hometown) is launched with the big bang of Thunder Over Louisville, a pyrotechnic display of sky-filling beauty. Most years it’s the largest fireworks display in North America. The event draws about 800,000 people to the banks of the Ohio River for 30 mesmerizing minutes of explosive creativity.

Being a fan of such things, I have attended probably 85 percent of these annual extravaganzas. One year I arrived during a five-hour parade of military aircraft, stunt and formation planes, parachutists and thunderous noise. Some dear friends of mine were waiting for me along the parade route, and via cell phone, they talked me into finding them at their perfect viewing location.

Between watching the final aerial stunts, I noted a man reading a book. He had his camera all set up, and was seated in a folding chair holding a book in which the lines of print went from top to bottom, which I quickly deduced meant he was reading a Japanese book. Then I noticed he was at the end of his book and clearly so engrossed by it that he was missing a rather impressive smoke and spark streaming loop de loop high above us.

Japan 2I reflected at that moment upon what kind of a person interrupts a reader trying to finish the very last page of a captivating book.


And I wondered what kind of a person brings a book to the largest fireworks display on our continent—which, to say the least, is a very non-readerly event.

A true Reader.

I asked if I might take the photo you see here and he agreed, as he experienced the last page of his book.

From this encounter, I made several observations.Japan 3

  1. People who are READERS will read their current books just about any place when given even a tiny slice of time to do it. I always have a book with me (actually several dozen if you count the e-books I have on my cell phone) and had I been alone, I no doubt would have  been reading one of them.
  2. Readers are never bored or impatient in a waiting room (or at an air show). Within a matter of seconds we are no longer waiting for an appointment or at an air show, but are magically transported through print to another place and time, with a different focus and frame of reference.
  3. With the near ubiquity of cell phones in evidence everywhere these days, along with the overlay of thousands of Wi-Fi connections, nearly EVERYBODY (in North America at least) has a pile of books for children and older readers with them ALL the time.

If as a country we actually used such ever-present resources, we might at long last experience the very biggest bang of all—Becoming a Nation of Readers*.

* A 1985 publication of the National Institute of Education describing the path toward full literacy for the USA.



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