As an avid reader and as a licensed English educator, I am often asked, why do we have to read? For those who do not like to read, the question is posed as a means to seek understanding from one who does; my students, on the other hand, are usually trying to dodge a reading assignment. While I can’t tackle the topic of ‘read-hate’ (I’ve coined the phrase) at the start of this blog, I will strive to answer the question: Why do we read?
Immediately, a quote from one of my favorite films comes to mind. In the movie You’ve Got Mail, Meg Ryan’s character gets carried away in a discussion about reading with a customer, played by Tom Hanks, saying, “When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does.” Then she realizes she’s gotten carried away, and Joe Fox cannot think of anything to say to that. Her statement has made him feel . . . probably guilty.
For me, I found this quote to be meaningful and inspiring. As a reader I always loved to read but never thought of how reading could shape my life, especially in my younger years. The more I thought about it, the more I realized how themes of friendship, courage, and compassion hidden in the books I read have been internalized within me and have become part of my personal morality. As an adult, I seek out novels that validate my beliefs, rather than shape them, but I still search for reading that might help me grow.
When I work with youth, I refer them to authors and works that will open their horizons, especially because I work mostly with students from rural areas. Also, I aim them towards works to inspire and motivate them. Many of my students face barriers to success and do not see the light at the end of the tunnel. I know where they’ve been; I was there once myself. I remember growing up in a broken household and being afraid to lose the few people I did love. At that time in my life, I came across a YA novel by Sherryl Jordan called Secret Sacrament. It was about a young man who, like me, had some family issues, a strong mother, and a bond with his sibling, who risked everything to realize his dreams and do what’s right. Throughout the novel he struggled with cowardice, fear, insecurities, and loss, but overcame all of his obstacles. This novel got me through the roughest time in my life and I referred back to it frequently, even at the start of college.
As a writer, reading has helped me improve my skill. Not only does reading strengthen the left side of the brain, it helps model what works: writing: grammar, style, voice, punctuation, story telling, etc. Also, reading is inspiring. Nothing makes me want to write like reading a good book. In fact, editors and publishers request their writers to be well-read, especially in their genre, because writers who are know what’s current, are better writers, and know their audience. So if you want to write, read first.
For me, reading is essential. In this blog, I am hoping to discuss literature and writing as they relate, share some good works of fiction, as well as promote some authors and bloggers who I believe are worth following. Contribution from followers will only make this blog all the more successful. If you are an author (self-published or other) or know someone who is, feel free to connect with me. I feature a new author each month.
In the meantime, I’m going to get some reading done before the work week begins.