June 7, 2017

The Truth about Reading

The Truth about Reading

I need to take a minute to emphasize a truth that in my experience teachers stopped preaching after elementary school, but which is nevertheless still true: being a "good" reader takes lifelong practice.

It's not once and done.

I feel actual crushing pain inside when someone says they hate reading or that they're no good at it, because stories bring me such incredible joy. Learning thrills me. Being a reader is a choice you make over and over again and it's a skill that takes patience and lifelong commitment to practice, practice, practice.

I have distinct memories of teachers, peers, and adults telling me I was too young, dumb, or naive to "get" something. I am eternally grateful that for whatever reason, I didn't let those hurtful words stop me from trying. There will always be books or authors or entire genres that intimidate you. I face moments of feeling intimidated all of the time when I pick up a certain book, press play on an audiobook, or try to learn something new. I went to school for this, I earned three degrees and spent thousands of dollars and hours for this, and I'm still practicing because I love it.

When you don't even try, you're giving into fear and letting a reputation beat you. Being a reader doesn't mean that you love every story, every writing style, or every book. It doesn't mean you always "get" everything that's happening between the lines. Maybe you'll always prefer graphic novels over huge 1,000-page tomes and that's okay! I love graphic novels!

No one has the right to tell you you're too old, too stupid, too male, too female, too anything to pick up a book that looks interesting to you. If you find reading difficult, if your mind wanders, if you easily fall asleep, if you find yourself sitting in front of a tv or device instead, that doesn't mean you're dumb or that you won't ever find a narrative that captures your imagination, it just means you need to keep trying.

Keep practicing.

Ask for recommendations from people you admire or who have similar interests as you. Seek out subject matter that strikes your fancy. Judge a book by its cover if that means you will pick it up and look beyond the cover. Be adventurous. Challenge yourself. You don't need anyone's permission to stop reading a book, set it down, and try something else.

Just please, don't give up on yourself because I see so many students who already have, who've let negativity or fear of failure break them, and in turn it breaks me.

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