A 13 year-old student asked me how he can start reading more. He said he’s had a library book in his room for the past two years and never opened it let alone made an attempt to finish it.
The question resonated with me because I’ve been in that situation before. Over the past five years or so, I’ve slowly lost the esteemed title of ‘book worm’. Reading fell out of favour and was replaced with videos, gaming and short articles. I still read a bit so it’s not like I’ve become completely illiterate otherwise I’m just getting really lucky writing all of this.
Back to the point, I didn’t significant value in reading books.
Yes, reading improves vocabulary, improves critical thinking and all sorts of wonderful things. However, these were all just nice things. I could probably find similar things to justify my gaming habit or even just watching videos all the time.
Books didn’t become less interesting. Other things were just more appealing. The issue, then, wasn’t with time or energy since I could find a lot of time to waste but none to read. The value I found in books was decreasing.
With this in mind, I didn’t recite statistics and I recalled something I was told before I started my philosophy degree.
“You get to have a conversation with authors.”
We write about them in the present tense because, even though many of them are long gone, their ideas are still engaged with and remain influential.
This spread into all areas of writing for me. By reading we get to have conversations with other people.
When we read fiction, we’re invited into the world the other person has created. They’re telling us a story that engages our imagination and curiosity.
When we read non-fiction, we’re informed, convinced or simply presented with a view you’re left to think about. While we may not engage directly with the authors, we’re able to think about the issues presented and come to a conclusion about it.
Sometimes, the story makes us happy or the argument makes us angry but the important thing is that we’re able to experience these things. There are billions of people on the earth with a variety of experiences and many have shared them with us through writing.
The added benefit of thinking about reading like this is that it’s opened me up to more genres. I’m granted access to millions of different worlds! Some people are trying to help me with the help of their own experiences. Some want me to experience the world of a crime lord. Others just want to make me laugh.
I’ve even started to grow an appreciation of children’s books! A lot of them are actually funny and entertaining. Some have good messages I’m sure I would have missed as a child. Authors and illustrators put in a lot of effort to talk to children and engage their imagination. Reading that while I’m a bit older is just fun. Simple, calming fun. There aren’t many other places you’ll find a bear being friends with an annoying duck and think it’s perfectly normal.
Every time I open a book, I begin a new conversation with someone else. This isn’t to say that all conversations are even good or useful. Not every conversation works like that in real life but that isn’t to say we’re better off talking to no one at all.
Reading means that I’ve opened my eyes to the world in front of me and, more importantly, to the people who live in it.