Dear Y.B.M.: This letter will be quite different from my previous letters in that I will not deal with the spiritual aspect of life, but rather the mental aspect of life.
First of all, may I kindly encourage you to spend as much time as you possibly can reading?
At the writing of this letter, I am sitting in the Barnes & Noble bookstore in Hamden, Connecticut. Besides the library, a good bookstore is my next favorite place to be. If I am not careful, I can spend an entire day in a good bookstore. I go to libraries and bookstores often. When I go, there is always one thing that troubles me, however, and that is the conspicuous absence of young black men.
Why is it that many of us young black men do not read much? First, I believe that it is because many of us as young black boys were simply not turned on to reading as many of our white counterparts were. Rather, we were turned on to a heavy diet of television and sports. Another reason is because many of us had the wrong mentality and attitude about school while growing up. Instead of seeing it as a golden opportunity, we saw it as a place to skip, fight, run the girls, and as we got older, to party. Therefore, sadly, many of us missed out on gaining the importance and joy of reading. However, thankfully, it is never too late to start reading.
I am still sitting in the Barnes & Noble bookstore and every person walking through the door is a white male with the exception of one white female. Could it be that these people know something that we don’t? (By the way, in case you’re wondering, black people live all around this bookstore.)
You may ask: Well what is the big deal about reading? What are the benefits of reading, anyway? I am glad you asked. Consider with me some of the benefits of reading:
1. Through regular reading, you can become an “educated person” without following a rigid course of study.
2. Regular reading forces you to increase your vocabulary.
3. Through regular reading you can become a more interesting person to talk with.
4. Through regular reading, you are able to go places, mentally, that you may not be in a position to go physically.
5. Regular reading will help you become a better writer, speller and speaker.
6. Regular reading helps you to become a thinker.
7. Regular reading puts you head and shoulders above the crowd. As they say, “Readers are leaders.”
To help get you started in a fulfilling life of reading, if you have not started already, here are some suggested areas that you can explore outside of the Book of books – the Bible:
A. Read a good grammar book through a couple of times. This will help you immensely in so many areas.
B. Read a pocket dictionary through, over a good space of time, of course. (A page a day is a good pace.)
C. Read a good short history of the world. This will help give you a broader perspective on what is happening today.
D. Read a good history of Africa. This will help you to understand where you came from.
E. Read a couple of good Black American History books. This will help you to understand who you are.
F. Read the classics written by both black and white authors. These books will strengthen your vocabulary as well as put you in the category of the “educated people” in this society.
G. Read the great Christian classics. These will help encourage your faith.
H. Read a good weekly news magazine and a good daily newspaper. This will help you keep abreast of what is happening now. Your local librarian or bookstore owner will help you find any of the aforementioned subjects.
Read and Grow!
Signing off From Barnes & Noble,
Daniel Whyte III
“A man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.” – Unknown
“Resolve to edge in a little reading every day. If you gain but 15 minutes a day, it will make itself felt at the end of a year.” – Horace Mann
“When you know that you don’t know, you’ve got to read.” – Solomon B. Fuller
“Books began to happen to me.” – Langston Hughes
“Temples fall, statues decay, mausoleums perish, eloquent phrases declaimed are forgotten, but good books are immortal.” – William T. Vernon
“Books were my extended family.” – James Washington
Excerpted from the book, Letters to Young Black Men, by Daniel Whyte III.