An escape from limitations

A Reader's Story

February 17, 1999|By Melody Holmes

How important is reading to Julian Bond, chairman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People?

``If I couldn't read, I couldn't do my job,'' says the 58-year-old professor of history at the University of Virginia.

When the responsibilities and pressures of an active public figure become overwhelming for him, Bond says he uses reading to relax. He loves reading books, newspapers, magazines and other periodicals. His favorite books are histories and what he calls ``escape fiction.''

In the midst of his leadership responsibilities with the NAACP, duties as a teacher, and role as a husband, parent and grandparent, Bond says escape fiction ``takes me away from who I am.''

He read a great deal as a child. Through reading, he recalls, ``I could go places and meet people without leaving home.'' The childhood books he enjoyed ``described a world very, very different from my own, but a fascinating one.''

His parents taught him to read even before he started school. His father, Dr. Horace Mann Bond, was the first black president of Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, the country's oldest black private college. His mother, Julia Washington Bond, was a part-time librarian at the Atlanta University Center in Georgia.

``The most important thing a parent can do for a child is teach them to read,'' Bond says.

Following his parents' example, Bond read to his five children. Today, he sends books and pays for magazine subscriptions for his grandchildren, who live too far away for him to read to personally.

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