Thursday, November 12, 2009

Remembering why we love to read

Let's face it, we don't have a lot of time these days. Between work and meals and kids and the gym and trying to keep up with new episodes of Glee (yes, me) our days are pretty much packed. Where does reading come in? And why is it important?

At the end of the day turning on the television and disengaging sometimes sounds much more appealing than cracking the pages of that new novel. And if we do actually spend the time getting into a book who knows when the next opportunity to pick it back up will be? Even the best stories can be lost in the shuffle.

What's the harm? We live in a modern world. The children of this current planet might not even have books when they grow up. They very possibly might be able to press a button and internalize a story. And if not that, then certainly holding a book will be considered old-fashioned. Heck, even some libraries are getting rid of their shelves in favor of an online digital space.

I have often said on this blog how important it is for children to see you reading, how so much of what they learn regarding literacy is based on modeled behavior. What I want to argue today, however, is why it's important for YOU to read. Why, regardless of the effect it has on the children around you, it is important for your own well-being.

Reading is active entertainment while television is passive. There are skills we must use in reading that we don't have to when plunked down in front of the tube. We imagine, we synthesize and we decipher.

Our world is based on narrative. Storytelling is the oldest art form known to man. Our lives are built around story. So much of my program involves collapsing the space between child and writer to get them to understand that the things that happen to them in their lives are stories. That even the most mundane of activities has a narrative gem inside. When we read we strengthen our storytelling muscle. We remember a good tale and, just maybe, see the magic in our own lives a little more.

Reading requires we use our own imaginations. Fantasy is an important part of being human. Dreaming big and wide is a gift we have as human beings. One of the things I love about reading is how people can get such a varied experience out of the same book. I love that Hogwarts looks just a bit different in my head than it does in my friend's. I love that, despite the movies, when I pick up those books I still have images of Harry, Ron and Hermione in my head. I love that they are mine. No one sees these characters exactly as I do. When we read, we build the visual world to the words we see and what we create belongs to us alone.

Reading is relaxing. No noise, no neon colors. Quiet and peaceful. Who doesn't need that these days?

As the weather gets colder and winter creeps up on us, I encourage you to make the bookshelf the centerpiece of your home. Think about why you love to read. Remember the first book that got your hooked. Get back in touch with that narrative spark inside us all. Curl up with a hot chocolate, a nice blanket and a book. You will be doing yourself, and your children, a world of good.


  1. Hey Becs,

    thank you for this one. I read ALL THE TIME for law school and it is draining, makes my eyes hurt and leaves me feeling confused and inept so it is easy to forget that reading can/should be enjoyable. You will have to give me a list of things to read when I get home.


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