On Reading

Nobody reads anymore – or so I keep hearing anyway. It seems like every other day I see an article or opinion piece in the papers declaring The Death of Reading or something just as dire-sounding. I’d like to believe that it’s all alarmist, but what if it isn’t? What if it’s true that young people really don’t like reading anymore (at least if it’s not about wizards or vampires and werewolves)?

It’s hard to imagine that, but that’s because it’d be hard for me to imagine a time when I didn’t like reading. I don’t really recall how I got into reading in the first place. I was never discouraged but I was never directly encouraged by my parents either. My mother, aside from her Frederick Forsythe and Agatha Christie collections, didn’t seek other authors out and the only time she ever read to me when I was a young girl was before I would go to sleep. She would read me stories from Thomas Bulfinch’s Mythology (to this day I prefer Bulfinch to Hamilton, I can thank her for that) or selected stories from the Bible (no fire and brimstone – I discovered that for myself later on). I suspect this is a big part of the reason why I didn’t grow up religious, the Bible and mythology were just the same to me. My father was only slightly different. His choice of cultural experience was music. I have him to thank for being the only seven year old girl in class who knew about Bob Dylan, Miles Davis or David Bowie, but he wasn’t much of a reader either. if I have anyone to thank, it might be my first grade adviser, whose name, I’m ashamed to say, I can’t even remember now. I do remember her face very clearly, and her kind smile when she gave me a list of authors I could check out in our small and not so reliable school library. Actually, now that I think about it, I didn’t have much trouble even though the library was so small. There was almost never any other student there. Maybe at the time our teachers also thought Reading was Dying, too.  Do you remember how you got into reading?

Now that I’m older I’m only discovering just how much more joy I can get out of reading. Novels and stories that I’ve read and reread again are now fuller with meaning. Maybe because (I like to think) that I am that way too. Of course, there will be some books that you outgrow or come not to love as much, but for the most part whenever I go back to a treasured favorite, I come out of it with something that I may have missed before.

That’s what happens to all readers as they grow. All good readers anyway. There are bad readers too – those who only go with the trend, those who let the marketing department of publishing tell them what they should read next. There seem to be plenty of them, in fact, and maybe that’s why from most everywhere you look it looks like the Death of Reading is upon us. But I’m not going to let that discourage me. You shouldn’t either. I know there are still good readers out there. And if you’re one of them, keep calm, pick up another book and carry on.

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