While we are on the topic of books, The Cat observed on her blog that she didn’t see any students reading in the staging area at a recent robotics competition. I was there as well and I was similarly amazed.
There were hundreds of primary and secondary school students in the hall. Many of them were busy working on their robots, as expected. But there was also a large number who were just sitting and waiting, perhaps in between events. Some students from an elite all-girls school were studying their notes, presumably for an upcoming test.
Some were playing cards. A few were reading newspapers or gossip magazines. Many were just walking around, or just sitting there, looking bored. None were reading books.
As The Cat observed, the biggest difference between the elite schools and the rest is perhaps not in the output (how well the students do). Nor the input (the quality of the students entering the schools). It may be the attitude of the students towards learning, in what they do with their time. They are elite schools because they are able to cultivate a culture of curiosity, of striving for excellence, of working hard to achieve your goal, of the desire and ability to enjoy the satisfaction of academic achievement.
Students and books should go hand in hand, be inseparable. It is a sad day for me to see students without books, or books without readers.