Relearning to Read

When I was living in North Carolina I had just finished college and was slowly figuring out what my life would look like as an adult. I was watching a lot of tv. And when I say a lot, I mean A LOT– like actively following 12-15 shows a week. Don’t ask me how I did it, I still am not sure. While I was subbing at Freedom I met a friend who was an avid reader, as all literature teachers should be (Hi Regina!) I was fascinated by how much she was able to read, even with a full teaching schedule and all the responsibility that goes with it. She had lists of books she wanted to read each year and even categories where she would challenge herself to read a specific number of books from various genres. I was fascinated and also a little sad because she reminded me of myself, back before college stole my will to read.

When I was a kid I was a voracious reader. I could not get my hands on enough books. I learned to read before entering kindergarten and the first real chapter book I remember reading wasn’t a Boxcar Children book or a Magic Treehouse book with large print and wide spacing. It was a Mandie mystery book I got from my church library. 200+ pages and teeny tiny font. It will be of no surprise to those who know me that it was historical fiction. I skipped right past those introductory chapter books, straight into Nancy Drew and other longer kid fiction.

This love of reading was also encouraged because I had lots of free time on my hands. I grew up in a neighborhood surrounded by retired couples or families with kids in college, so there wasn’t anybody to play with my age. I spent hours each day reading books and letting myself get sucked into the worlds within the books I read. I would even put a book between my teeth and climb up into my favorite tree to disappear for a couple hours. In elementary school I would go to the public library and check out a stack of books about a foot tall and earn a look from the librarian at the circulation desk like I was being a greedy book hog. But every week I would read them all and earn enough Book It stickers to win myself a free personal pan pizza from Pizza Hut EVERY WEEK. It was the most delicious form of highway robbery ever encouraged for 90’s kids.

In high school I always had a book with me. As soon as I finished my homework in class, there was a lull during band, or if my teacher got distracted by something, my book came out. I went to the library every Sunday after church and would read 3-5 books a week. This was just how I entertained myself up until Netflix happened freshman year of college. When I made the transition from high school classes that were fairly easy to a challenging course load of 18 credits, I suddenly lost the will to read for fun. All my intellectual energy was going into deciphering Aristotle’s Allegory of the Cave or trying to figure out what the heck the founding fathers were actually trying to say in the Constitution. By the time I read most of my assignments (not all, does anyone actually read ALL their “required” reading??) I was brain dead and the last thing I wanted was to stare at a book again.

10 semesters later of the same old rinse and repeat method I had pretty much forgotten what it was like to read for fun. I probably only read 15 or 20 books for pleasure all through undergrad. Looking back, I have no idea how I survived without them, but I did. Fast forward to 2017 and I would find myself talking about books with Regina, saying how much I loved to read and how great books were but I realized that I hadn’t really read any in a long time. She encouraged me to get back in the reading game, gave me some great book recommendations and I tried to begin again.

At first I didn’t even know who I was. Watching tv for so long had completely destroyed my ability to read. My attention span was shot from only reading news articles and social media posts. I hadn’t read anything that would be longer than about a 10 minute commitment in years, and even then I would probably switch out of the window the article was in to browse twitter for a while or check my Instagram. I would find myself reading a book, enjoying the story line and feel this uncontrollable need to check my Facebook page every other page. I couldn’t even make it 3 pages straight before I would wonder what else was going on in the world. And that was when I could even convince myself to pick up a book over watching tv.

When I started out I knew that I would never choose a book over Netflix because I had created some really deep-seated habits. I had to begin by telling myself that I wasn’t allowed to watch tv until I read for 20 minutes. I treated it like mandatory reading homework until it began to be fun again. By bribing myself to read I finally broke through to regain my reading stamina, but it took about a month! I slowly remembered that I truly enjoyed reading and I started to read a little more all the time.

In 2017 I read 13 books, which was about as many as I’d read in many years combined before that. I kept track of my reading habits again in 2018 and my progress was astounding. I aimed for 20 books. I somehow managed to read 58! I tried to make a conscious effort to include more non-fiction into my reading repertoire. I read 11 non-fiction books and a couple classics as well. I still love YA fiction the best. I don’t see that ever changing, but it was good to expand into other areas. I enjoyed reading some books on history and politics, biographies, and some great Christian books as well. It’s been so fun diving into the fictitious worlds of teens, growing to have a deeper understanding of the world around me through reading about history and politics and gaining a lot of knowledge and wisdom regarding my faith.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to read as many books in 2019, but I’ve already cranked out 6, so it’s looking pretty promising. I hope some of you will find a small chunk of time to give to reading each day as well. It is relaxing in a way the current world has nearly completely forgotten in lieu of passive entertainment from flashy screens. Just give it a chance. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies . . . The man who never reads lives only one.” – George R.R. Martin

Some other good reading quotes for the bookworms among us       QUOTES

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