I was chatting to my barber at Snips in Warrington market the other day. He's a keen reader, as well as helping GOES with a collection box. We remembered the books we had read as children, and the sauce bottles and everything and anything that had words on it. That took me back to the day in The Gambia when I was sorting out a village school library. Many of the books had been badly damaged by rain and by termites. They were in a dreadful state and because the village didn't run to a rubbish collection I decided to burn them. It was a Saturday morning and not a soul in sight. I dug a shallow fire pit and lit a few twigs and leaves. I started to tear up one of the most badly damaged books and threw a few pages onto the fire. I was disturbed by shouts of "No! Stop! Stop!" and a group of eleven and twelve year old children raced towards me. One grabbed the pages from the fire and stamped out the flames. I saw there were tears in his eyes. "Please don't do this, please" he begged. "They are books!" I pointed out that the books were ruined, destroyed by damp or termites and were in any case unsuitable for children of their age.
"Tom," said their leader."We can see how the writer used words, how he constructed sentences; we can see how adverbs and adjectives are used, which tenses are employed. These books can teach us many things. There are no books in our homes."
I felt about half an inch high. Out of the mouths ...
Half a book is better than none. As somebody said "We don't know we're born."