Won’t and Can’t

January 6, 2008 | By | 2 Replies More

Yesterday, I saw the following quote on a t-shirt in a little souvineer shop in Hannibal, Missouri:

A person who won’t read has no advantage over one who can’t read.

This quote uses a formula that could work for many other verbs, too.   Instead of “read,” you can substitute “think,” “vote,” “empathize,” “speak,” “listen,” or “give a damn.”

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Category: Meaning of Life, Quotes

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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  1. Mark Hochhauser says:

    Literacy researchers use the word "aliterate" to describe people who can read, but who choose not to. I'm always amazed by what I hear on talk radio or TV from anyone who has an opinion vs what I hear from authors on CSPAN Book Notes. Too many people seem to fit the description used by Tom and Ray on Public Radio's Car Talk: Unencumbered by the thought process.

  2. Alison says:

    In a way, this relates to your post about education stifling creativity. Many of my daughters' classmates don't enjoy reading, because the majority of the reading they've done has been required by school. Obviously, parents who don't read set their children up for this, but a school that picks up the slack by introducing children to new and interesting literature and stocking their libraries with age-appropriate reading of all types (even popular fiction – the Goosebumps series is almost inane, but the elementary students gobble it up) can change that. Few get to do that, though. The Library becomes associated with research and required reading because of Standards that allow little time for recreational reading.

    One of my absolute favorite volunteer activities was reading aloud to the elementary school kids in school. Every week, I'd be in three to five classrooms, creating a different voice for each character, making sound effects, engaging the kids with eye contact, questions, leaving off at important points for the next time so they'd be excited to hear more. Every child who told me that having books read to them made them want to go out and read more gave me an incredible sense of joy.

    My feeling is that reading for pleasure leads to reading for information. When it starts off as something you do because you have to, it might never become something you choose to do when you're not compelled to. I was among the throngs who was thrilled to see the success of the Harry Potter books because they got kids into bookstores and libraries, excited to get completely absorbed in a story. I don't think it matters as much what the kids are reading, as long as they're reading. (There are some obvious exceptions, but I don't think that most of the stuff they have access to is going to do much permanent damage.)

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