September 8

International Literacy Day

 

Dillon was always grateful that he knew how to read.

All those slogans they threw at him in grade school — about the importance of literacy, about how books opened up the world — well, in his experience they turned out to be true.

He especially loved novels and picture books that took him to faraway places.  Treasure Island, The Arabian Nights, and Around the World in 80 Days fascinated him as a child, and made him dream of places he might someday visit. In more mature years, he gravitated towards travel memoirs, rich with detail about exotic locations — or guidebooks, with lists and prices for restaurants and hotels, and color photographs of tourist attractions.

In his reading selections, Dillon shunned stories set in fanciful places such as Narnia or Middle Earth.  The events or characters might be fictional — and even some travel narratives tended to stretch the truth a bit — but he wanted the places to be real, described with authentic details.

He avoided books about Oz or Neverland or (god forbid) the Moon or some other outer space absurdity.  He’d always considered it a waste of time to read about a place he’d never have a chance to visit.

When the sirens blared their evacuation warnings, Dillon scooped a few of his favorite memoirs and guidebooks into his backpack.  He planned to dream of other places, as he waited for the world to return to normal.

It never did.

The idea of armchair travel no longer appealed to him.  These days, travel was too dangerous.  Most of the places in his favorite guidebooks no longer existed.

He thought of a new slogan schools might use, to encourage literacy in the next generation… if there was going to be one.

Reading makes you aware of dreams you no longer have.