“Who likes to read?”
As I slowly raise my hand and look around the room at my surrounding classmates, I see that I—the only English major in the room—am the only one with my hand up.
6th grade Claire comes out of the depths of my soul and is embarrassed. “Put your hand down!” she says. “Tell them you’re kidding!’” she says.
21-year-old Claire shakes her head and continues to hold her slightly-shaking hand high.
The rest of my class stares at me with wide eyes, in absolute horror. Someone screams. A girl cries. A boy faints. Out of nowhere comes the music that plays when the slasher is about to slice and dice up the prom queen.
They look at me, my professor laughs awkwardly, and the moment is over.
I was always a closeted book nerd. Growing up—from my experience—reading for fun was never a popular thing to do, even for the smart kids. The most excited my classmates ever got about books was when the Scholastic book fair came around, and we got to miss class to make a wish list. Meanwhile, I was the girl who actually bought books from the book fair. I was the girl that got in trouble for wanting to check out more than the allowed amount of books from the library every week. I was the girl who got in trouble for reading instead of paying attention in class.
I never got ridiculed or bullied for my love of books, but I always felt like an outcast. Reading felt like a love affair that I needed to keep a secret.
When did reading for fun become such a taboo, anyway?
According to the National Endowment of the Arts, reading for pleasure has been on a steady decline for American youth. In 1992, 59 percent of eighteen to twenty-four-year-old youths read a creative work for pleasure, not for work or school. In 2002, that percentage dropped to 52 percent. This drop represents 2.1 million readers (The National Endowment for the Arts).
As a full-time student and a full-time employee, I can be the first to admit that reading for pleasure is not at the top of my to-do list. The daily balance between work, homework, spending time with family and/or friends, and spending time alone is not easy to maintain; this delicate balance is composed of personal choices that can make or break your daily goals. For me, reading for fun is all about making these choices.
My reading for fun often occurs in the middle of the day, in between classes or after I get home. I always have a book with me. While I wait for a room to clear out before my next class, I pull out a book. While I’m waiting for my professor to begin teaching, I pull out a book. While I’m sitting in the cafe eating lunch, I pull out a book. These little moments and these few pages add up to potentially a few hours and hundreds of pages every week.
Reading before bed is the perfect way to wind down and distract your brain from thinking about all of the homework you didn’t do that day.
Reading can sometimes feel like a chore, or something that is difficult to do. Sure, turning on an episode of Parks and Recreation on Netflix (even though you’ve seen it eight times) is the easier choice. But—as much as I love Parks and Rec—it’s not as fulfilling as sitting down, relaxing, and absolutely crushing 50 pages.
Reading is hard work, but it does so much for each reader. Reading relaxes you; it teaches you; it confuses you; it moves you; it inspires you. Reading makes you think about the world and the people around you. Reading lets you see the world through someone else’s eyes.
Isn’t that worth the effort?
The National Endowment for the Arts. (2007). To Read or Not to Read: A Question of National Consequence. (Research Report #47). Washington, DC. Accessed Jan 30. https://www.arts.gov/sites/default/files/ToRead.pdf