Carte blanche to Claudia Larochelle | Reading, a National Priority for a Better Life in a Stronger Quebec

With their unique pen and their own sensitivity, artists in turn present their vision of the world around us. This week we give carte blanche to Claudia Larochelle.

Posted at 9:00am

Claudia Larochelle
Journalist, presenter and writer

When I was 14 I wanted to kill myself. Despite Jean Leloup and The Cranberries to my ears, the happy friendships, the volleyball gang, the ski gang, the student newspaper, the first sentimental emotions, and my privileges as a young middle-class girl. Unfortunately, I get bored easily. I rumbled, I cooked, I floated. Then, for many reasons too long to explain, I imploded. It happened towards the end of my third high school. I remember panic attacks in class for incredulous stares, staying in the infirmary, then, finally, this full-time retreat for several months in my teen’s room, my neighbors bringing me my homework, from my impossible trips out my window, the buzz of other teenagers attracted me in vain. In 1992, the word “depression” didn’t apply to young people. We just started talking about burnout and that only involved the adult world at work. So I had to wait for it to be over with Enya tapes, breathing techniques, valerian herbal teas, and trips to Louis-Hippolyte Lafontaine. The health system was already overloaded. No specific suicide plan, just the skin inside out on my body, I came back home every time. Still, always, dark thoughts.

Then the books came.

I was already reading, of course, but never like in this period when certain titles have become buoys launched from the top of the waves by a new friend more enlightened than the others, a librarian, a teacher, my mother.

In contact with the writers I discovered, I could keep my head above water, find something else to live better, comfort my grief, inhabit my loneliness. The words of others also enable the invention of a new life.

It was already taken.

“From melancholy, literature is its fulfillment and completion. One enters literature through melancholy. It is through literature that we come out of melancholy,” writes Danièle Sallenave in The Gift of the Dead† So these are the words of my mother tongue, which have become a kind of second flesh. At the same time, I unknowingly had to make a pact to remain faithful to him for the rest of my life. Hence my current struggle for the survival of the French in Quebec.

I thought back to this period of “resurrection” by signing, at the invitation of the Union of Quebec Writers and Writers (UNEQ), the important letter The press on World Book and Copyright Day, April 23, and together with organizations and personalities from the worlds of books, culture, literacy, education, business and health. She asked the five parties campaigning for this year’s general election in Quebec to commit to making reading a national priority for at least a year.⁠1† This request was accompanied by a request to “accompany this decision with an exceptional budget to allow for a major awareness campaign and structuring projects”. Since reading is not the sole responsibility of the Ministries of Education and Culture and Communication, since the problems related to the development of a real reading culture are multiple and many ministries and organizations are involved, the desire to establish a dedicated multidisciplinary and interdepartmental committee was also released.

With the “emerging” of two extraordinary pandemic years that will leave their mark on society – many among young people – and whose impact we have not yet measured, I can only reiterate my support for this request from my colleagues. , to insist that it be taken seriously, considering, of course, how much a society’s prosperity, its vitality, and, to come back to my own experience, its sanity, also depend on reading, and, by extension , by promoting our French language and our writers.

Supporting Evidence

Reading has been proven to enable people in pain to find solutions or answers through awareness, which provides release, comfort or relief that reduces anxiety, fear or sadness, and sometimes “real moments of mental well-being,” writes Pierre justly. -Andre Bonnet in Bibliotherapy in general medicine† The increase in book sales at home during the pandemic, the increased popularity of our authors and listening to the radio program The more the better, the more we readhosted by Marie-Louise Arsenault on ICI Premiere, which enjoyed the highest ratings in 11 years of existence, is undoubtedly no coincidence.

Daniel Pennac expresses it so well in like a novel “The paradoxical virtue of reading is to abstract ourselves from the world in order to find meaning in it. †

More specifically, if we know that a young worker with low literacy skills costs society in Quebec an average of $200,000 in potential lost income, including 35% in tax breaks, it speaks for itself for economist Pierre Langlois. Literacy as a source of economic growthan economic analysis conducted for the Literacy Foundation and the Solidarity Fund QFL in 2018 that not only a society’s mental health, but also its economic health, depends on its ability to read, understand the meaning of texts.

In a more recent survey, unveiled on May 3 by the same Literacy Foundation, of Quebec’s vulnerable populations, Pierre Langlois noted this time without much surprise that literacy and income issues coexist. The high vulnerability index would reach 6% of the population aged 15 and older in Quebec, or nearly 400,000 people.

“On the one hand, insufficient basic skills are an obvious obstacle to employability, salary development and education and vocational training. On the other hand, living in a low-income situation makes it almost impossible to deploy the resources and time needed for adult education, return to school or professional requalification without specific financial support,” the study also underlines. As you can imagine, this spiral of social and economic insecurity will be even more difficult to resolve, and could obviously be exacerbated in a context of post-pandemic economic recovery challenges, inflation and labor shortages.

The power of Shopenhauer

Like what, promoting reading in Quebec, making it a national priority, goes far beyond the wishes of a few literature lovers in need of attention or the memories of a former depressed woman relieved to have found something to do. to hold on. I am deeply convinced that some of us can guide an individual, however young, to reading, even if it means trying more than once, groping a little before finding THE book that brings about the unconditional love, and whatever comes out of it in terms of proven benefits.

I remember piqued the interest of my boisterous godson, more interested in football and cars than in books, by offering him up one day when he was a teenager. The art of always being right by Arthur Schopenhauer. It sells for $4.95 in bookstores at Editions des Mille et une nuits… I had lit a flame, I’m sure. In his early thirties he still reads, with a certain fondness for philosophers and the debate about ideas. victor. Unfortunately, he stands up to me…

René Lévesque said: “To inform is to be free. That should be enough to entice a few youngsters. My mother made sure to “hide” a few sulphurous books on the famous top shelf, behind some sort of sandstone statue that wasn’t too pretty. Of course my sister and I went there to poke around. I’ll keep quiet about these titles which probably don’t all border on the great genius and I’ve revealed myself enough in the introduction, but I believe the forbidden nature of the parental ruse would have worked. As adults, we still love to read. And sunbathing. My sister teaches in primary school, partly with literature. She buys books for her class, she stirs up literary passions every year. It makes me proud of her. I became a journalist, I write, I publish. Of course, our children’s rooms are full of stories. As far as I can remember, we’ve weathered all our storms with books since my depression at age 14. All young people should be given the same opportunity, the same right.

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