Read This!: Why Books Matter


109 pages
Contains Illustrations
ISBN 0-920486-53-3
DDC 820'.71'071




Edited by Karen Zoppa

Nikki Tate-Stratton writes children’s picture books and novels for
preteens. Her most recent novels are Jo’s Triumph, Raven’s Revenge,
and Tarragon Island. Her latest picture book is Grandparents’ Day.


Read This! is, ostensibly, a collection of essays, poems, letters, and
drawings exploring the place of the printed word in today’s high-tech
world. Edited by Karen Zoppa, an instructor at the University of
Winnipeg and Chair of MACRO (Meaningful Assessment and Curricular Reform
Organization), the stated intent of this collection was to promote the
use of good old-fashioned, hold-in-your-hands books. Opening with an
essay by John Ralston Saul in which he discusses the role of public
education and the relationship between literacy and democracy, the book
continues with an essay by the collection’s editor lamenting the
decline of books in the face of increasing pressure from video games and
other non-paper media.

While Zoppa’s arguments are heartfelt and suggest that literacy
levels are declining as a direct result of a decreased emphasis in the
Manitoba curriculum on reading literature in the classroom, a number of
the subsequent essays seem to argue the opposite. Educator and author
David Bergen provides examples of students in his Grade 12 literature
class who read and discuss a wide range of titles, and teacher Pamela
Lockman describes a day filled with keen readers and wonderful books.
Sharon Selby, another teacher, extols the joys of producing a
Shakespeare play with Grade 11 students. The submissions continue with
an articulate reflection on a standardized examination by high-school
student Joshua Grummett (one could argue that there’s not much wrong
with an education system that produces thinkers and writers like this);
Di Brandt rhapsodizes about reading and writing poetry in the schools;
and David Welham explores the enduring power of stories. Various other
contributors reflect on books, multimedia, and the information age in
essays and poetry.

The overall impression, though, is not that books are under siege as
Zoppa suggests, but that books are enduring despite challenges, that
teachers remain committed to bringing literary works to life for
students, and that there are many ways to nurture a love of literature
in young people.

A different title and a revised opening essay from Zoppa would have
helped create a more cohesive book and then, perhaps, the overall
position would have made more sense. What might have been an inspiring
collection of writings is, instead, a mismatched assortment of
reflections without a unifying purpose. The result is confusing,
contradictory, and largely counterproductive.


“Read This!: Why Books Matter,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 12, 2024,