So I was going to write this piece about why children should read books. I was going to rant and rave about Poe and Snicket and all the authors I loved as a kid and I was going to break out ALL the statistics about the mediating relationship between the amount of time children spend reading and their success in school. I’d go on and on about how books can show you the world, shining, shimmering, spendidddd…
Small problem: Kids don’t read this blog. Moreover, kids do read. Quite a lot, actually. You’d be hard-pressed to find an elementary school that does not dedicate hours a day to recreational reading time for the kids, teachers reading to the kids, and incorporating reading into non-language arts content areas.
Who doesn’t read?
You know what population doesn’t read? Adults. Adults don’t read. In fact, one in three adults in the States never go on to read a whole book again after high school.
Somewhere along the way, we stop reading for pleasure and we start reading because we have to. While kid’s reading environments tend to focus entertainment, the world of reading as an adult can often have an air of have-to rather than want-to. That point may have hit in high school or college, trudging through required readings in overpriced textbooks, during which reading became a chore, and blah blah blah the rest is history.
AND WAIT WAIT WAIT I know what you are thinking – the people who read the blog of a publishing company probably read constantly. Like, that’s our perpetual state of existence right, it’s reading something. I mean, it’s our job.
But… it’s our job.
We have to read the research articles about that one thing that we should really get past the abstract to understand and we have that series of books that is in genre for which we write so we should probably read that if for no other reason than to make sure we’re not writing the exact same thing and then there is that ridiculously huge book that the New York Times critics said is the next David Copperfield and the people in the know have already posted an Instagram picture of it on their lap on their plane flight to a conference in Chicago where everyone is going to already have read and formed abrasive opinions on it and there was not one comma in this entire paragraph.
Do you feel stressed? Me too.
Reading for joy because you can
I want to give you permission to get lost in a completely useless book. Not for work, not for self-improvement, not anything that is respectable by any stretch of the imagination. Read something you’ll find addictive and entertaining – completely calorie-dense dessert for your mind. Something exciting or romantic or mysterious or taboo or funny – please for the love of everything read something funny. Try to get yourself back to the moment of hiding under your covers at night with a flashlight because you couldn’t put a book down. Don’t write a review of the book. Don’t put it on a list you can check off. Don’t.
We can’t get away from the fact that, as adults, there will always be some reading we have to do. It’s part of your job, or your business, or your continuing education. But if you let yourself get to the point where EVERYTHING you read has to somehow be applicable to work or be the next great classic, then reading is going to become synonymous in your mind with “god-awful chore” without you even realizing that it happened.
So, go forth and read an unrespectable book that maybe has tacky supernatural beings or ridiculously dramatic love or gasp-worthy taboo topics or completely useless humor. I won’t tell.
Elena Nightingale is a PhD student in Educational Psychology at Georgia State University and studies literacy and assessments for adults through her work with the Center for the Study of Adult Literacy. She has read all the books that you’re not supposed to read, yes, even that one.