There is no activity more satisfying than reading to a receptive child. I read out loud to my son long before he could recognise letters and long after he could have read the book for himself. I don't think I am giving away any secrets when I tell you that he still reads books aloud to his wife (sorry Dominic and Karen!) (whether she wants it read or not.)
In the days when my hearing was "normal" I used to listen to "Book at Bedtime" and that way I enjoyed a lot of books I would probably never have read for myself.
A couple of days ago I read that sales of talking books keep increasing, that more and more books are being adapted for radio as it is a rapidly growing market. For those with poor or no sight this must be very heartening news - to be able to enjoy one's favourite books again, albeit in an adapted version.
But it seems that the real reason for the market growth is more likely to be that so many of us do huge commutes to work and are stuck in traffic for such a long time. I can see the attraction of listening to a chunk of "War and Peace" while stuck in a jam on the M25. But the question I want ot put to you, my readers, is does this mean that eventually less people will actually read books - that they will become so used to hearing them that they will eventually forget that books are really for reading to oneself?
I think this has already been happening for a while with the televised versions of the classics.
Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Brideshead, French Lts. Woman - it is interesting that the paperbacks issued after the film/TV series always show the actors from the production in their roles. These pictures sell the books - I wonder how many of those who buy them actually get round to reading them.
For me there is no substitute for the written word. I was a great Gregory Peck fan and I loved "Moby Dick" - it was a great adaptation (not yesterday I grant you - but then I wasn't born yesterday) but watching Gregory Peck standing by the mast in a storm, with the wind blowing through his hair in a particularly sexy way, was no substitute for reading the Herman Melville version, for marvelling at his use of words, for using my imagination to create my own characters. As I read the book before seeing the film, I can honestly say that my Captain Ahab bore no relation to Gregory Peck and the same goes for Queque too.
Reading is one of the most pleasurable activities. To sit down with a good, well-written book, to feel its pages, to smell its print, to hold it in your hands, to re-read a particularly pleasing paragraph or chapter, to put it down, go and make a cup of tea and then come back to it, to create a whole new world inside your head, where the characters are yours and yours alone (for I am sure my Ahab wasn't Melville's Ahab any more than Gregory Peck was) - that is a joy and a skill which needs nurturing through every generation. Is it in danger of disappearing to the talking book, or am I worrying unnecessarily?