When I was at school, research for homework involved pouring through books, not just because it was fun and enriching but because there was no world wide web to answer questions for us. Don’t get me wrong, the internet is a fabulously enabling tool for information finding and sharing, but I firmly believe that it is not a substitute for books.

Whilst out dog walking one weekend we came upon three boxes of dumped books left next to the river. Why anyone would feel the need to fly tip books is beyond me, when charity shops proliferate every high street providing a free outlet for people’s cast offs. Sorting through the now slightly water damaged books we discovered some real gems which we decided to take home and give a new lease of life. Once cleaned and left to dry by the radiator my 8 year old son began leafing through the books. One in particular caught his eye. Called Modern Technology it featured page after page of carefully drawn picture and nugget of facts on vehicles and construction contraptions. The best bit was the fact that the book was published in 1971 so the ‘modern’ technology solutions were themselves a talking point.  In some instances technology had moved so quickly that it was as though we now inhabit a futuristic world. In others, the book had surprising foresight, such as talking about how hybrid cars would be a pollution solution in the future.  A series of facts about traffic accidents also sparked a flurry of questions. With approximately 500 road traffic injuries cited in the UK the obvious question was how does that compare to today? A quick search on the internet provided the answer, a trebling in the number of accidents in 40 years and a discussion about why this might be.

The page about engines similarly elicited a quest for fact finding. Still clutching the book my son looked on the internet to compare engines today with the ‘modern’ and historical ones in the book.  Another page of images showed the evolution of the wheel which inspired a whole host of wheel drawing as 8 year olds do. Far from becoming redundant, this slightly dated encyclopaedia has actually taken on greater interest than perhaps it had when new. It helped of course that he could relate it to his daddy who would have been 3 years old when the book was published. This created interest and a talking point as my husband and I reminisced about life when we were younger. I fear it also confirmed in his young mind just how long ago that was!

As Oscar Wilde famously said “ If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again there is no use in reading it at all” and for this collection of discarded books this is certainly true as they have found a new lease of life and light bulb to ignite in the hands of a certain boy.

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