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THE THREE JOYS OF READING
The picture on this page is called "A Reading from Homer." Study each of the people who form the group. Judging from their dress and appearance, do you think they are people of the present time or of the ancient world? From what sort of book is the poet reading? Should you think such "books" could be owned by all
sorts of people, or only by a few? Study the reader's expression. What sort of story do you think he is reading? Can you decide anything about the listeners, who they are and what they are thinking about? Who is most deeply interested in the story, and why?
Men do brave deeds on the sea, in far-off lands, or in war, and these deeds are the subject of song and story. Youths who are looking forward to heroic careers, and men and women to whom life has brought few thrilling experiences, like to hear these tales. A well-told story opens the door to a new pleasure in living. An animal knows only the present. He is hungry, or tired, or his life is in danger, or he is well fed and sleepy. But boys and girls,
and grown-ups, too, have not only their daily experience to draw upon, but through books and magazines and papers they can enter into the experience of others, so that they may live many lives in one.
Aladdin had a wonderful lamp. By rubbing it he could be anywhere he chose or could possess anything he desired. Such a lamp the reader of good books possesses. You come in from work or play, curl yourself up in a big chair before the fire, open your book, and in a twinkling you are whisked away to a new world. Your body is there, curled up before the fire, but enchantment has come upon you. In imagination you are with Sindbad the Sailor, or with Robinson Crusoe, or with King Arthur, or you are in the Indian Jungle, or on a ship sailing the South Seas, or you are hunting for Treasure Island. And you have it in your power to take these wonderful trips instantly; no railway tickets are required, no long delays. You may go on a journey to the other side of the world or into the South Polar ice or out on a western ranch. What is more wonderful, you may go back a century, or ten centuries; through this Aladdin's lamp of reading you are master not only of space, but also of time. Thus the first joy of reading is the privilege of taking part in the experiences of men of every time and every portion of the world. You multiply your life, and the product is richness and joy.
The second joy of reading is even greater. Not only the world of adventure is open to you by means of books, but also a life enriched by the wisdom that has been gathered from a thousand poets and historians as bees gather honey from a thousand flowers. There is a story of a great Italian of the sixteenth century who found himself in the prime of life without a position, without money, and even compelled to become an exile because of a revolution. He retired to a farm remote from all the scenes in which his previous life had been passed. All day he worked hard, for only by hard work could he live. But in the evenings, when work was done, when horses and oxen and the laborers who had toiled with them all the day had gone to sleep, this man put on the splendid court dress he had worn in the days of his prosperity, days when he had associated with princes and the great ones of the