Reading Isn’t For Me

IWSGHEADER

“Reading isn’t for you? But you’re a Language Arts teacher and published author!” Before you pick up that stone, let me explain.

I teach reluctant readers every day and realized the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Did anyone see a recent poll in the associated press that only one in four adults read?

Raise your hand if you think it’s sad only 25% of our adult population reads books? Okay, now put your hand down, people are staring (welcome to my world . . . and it’s not because I’m extremely good-looking, no matter what Mom says).

And out of those adults, most admit to only reading four novels a year! This mentality doesn’t make sense to me because I’d much rather read than do ANYTHING else. There’s a quote by Groucho Marx that goes, “I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.” HA! Raise your hand again if that’s you. (Again, put your hand down. People are laughing now.)

But I do understand this is a real mentality. I live with a husband who falls under the category of, “Reading isn’t for me.” In fact, he still hasn’t finished reading my debut novel, 18 Things, which released last January. Yeah, you read that right. LAST January. He said it’s his New Year’s Resolution to finish it in 2014. I’m not holding my breath, or I’d turn purple before you could say Ghastly Guilt Trip Glutton Reader!

And don’t even get me started on my middle schoolers! I’m required by my district to do a read aloud from a novel at least once a semester with each of my classes. This last semester, I chose 10 books that were award-winning YA literature and let each class (I have a total of seven) vote on what they wanted me to read. I thought they’d be motivated to listen if they picked the book. After all, I’m highly entertaining to listen to (aren’t most people with a coffee addiction? *downs eighth cup today*), so I wasn’t the problem. But I have to say, at times I wondered why I tried .While I do think students should be exposed to the beauty of actual literature (because they do read, but it’s usually just trash on the internet), I do not think my read alouds are having much effect on their capacity as readers. And at this stage of their lives as young students, more than anything, they need to read on their own. Otherwise, chances are, they’ll grow up and join the 75% of our adult population that gives the excuse, “Reading isn’t for me.”

Another quote. “Show me a family of readers, and I will show you the people who move the world.” –Napoleon Bonaparte

Raise your hand if you think the future of our world is looking bleak? (People are breaking out their smartphones now to take a picture of the freak who keeps raising their hand for no reason.)

I write and read as if breathing depends on it, so as an author and teacher, when I hear so many voices around me saying, “Reading isn’t for me,” I start to get more panicked than a sinner at church on Sunday.

When I think back to my own young adult days of reading (a long time ago in a galaxy far away), I can testify books made me everything I am. I started to believe in magic while taking up residence in Narnia and Hogwarts, craved adventures while sailing the raft with Huck and Jim, developed courage while sitting around the Round Table with King Arthur, expanded my understanding of everyday communication when laughing with Amelia Bedelia, learned to accept people for who they are with an ugly duckling, appreciated the value of trying new things when eating green eggs and ham with Sam I Am, overcame difficulties with the Swiss Family Robinson, utilized my critical thinking skills while solving mysteries with Nancy Drew, repented and cared about others with Ebenezer Scrooge, craved true love and romance with Miss Elizabeth Bennet, reveled in the power of grace with Jean Valjean, and became a good friend and writer alongside a spider named Charlotte.

These characters made me believe in a world where I could go anywhere and be anything I wanted to be. The stories helped me to know I wasn’t alone (even though I sat by myself in the cafeteria), evolved my perceptions about the world around me and how to sympathize with others, entertained me when I was bored, and made me feel emotions I lacked from growing up in a dysfunctional family.

Already, I know my case for why reading is for everyone is being drowned out by the sound of kids inhaling violent video games, by the sound of teens receiving yet another text message, by you (if you’ve managed to read this far, then pat yourself on the back until you get a muscle cramp) getting distracted by some shiny new object posted to YouTube.

With the release of my second novel, 18 Truths, coming this month (January 28th!), I’m willing to do just about anything to get people to read (short of sprinting across the field during the upcoming Super Bowl with my book’s title painted across my bare chest).

18 Truths high resolution image

Most of you reading this post are probably veracious readers . . . any ideas on motivating those around me, young and old, to READ?

Because I don’t think the “Reading isn’t for me,” should hold up in the courtroom of life. What better way to satisfy our curiosities, learn what we need to know, and come together to make sense of this world than through a good book?

So yeah, my reply? “You’re right. Reading isn’t for you. It’s for everyone!”

Don’t forget to visit other bloggers in the Insecure Writers Support Group ! And as always, mucho thanks to our Head Ninja Captain, Alex J. Cavanaugh for creating this wonderful group!

If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing it with others on Facebook or Twitter . . . I could use allll the help I can get with name recognition before my book releases! ❤

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48 comments on “Reading Isn’t For Me

  1. What an excellent post. I used to be a voracious reader. Now I’m a voracious writer and reader. I don’t get why peeps don’t read more. I have two boys who don’t read a lot but it’s not from a lack of me reading to them when they were young. Reading just isn’t for them., though my youngest son reads more than the oldest. Sad really.

  2. I have to admit I don’t read as much as I really want to. I always prefer to write, but I also want to read all the stories out there:)

    • I have to read an hour before bed to wind my mind down, or I won’t fall asleep! Never fails, even if I’m dead tired. Guess I’ve programmed myself. I probably have OCD issues too, but that’s another post entirely!

  3. Wow, I love the page facelift! So funny how you hear in the media how kids reading has been on the rise after the Harry Potter/Twilight craze but overall, not so much. I tend to see kids more interested in reading after they’ve seen the first movie of a series and can’t wait for the sequel to come out. This generation is all about instant gratification where attention spans lose out in the end. Idk how to bring them back as technology continues to soar. Kindles? E-readers? Maybe Collins was on to something with kids killing kids in HG and stories need to up the ante… *shrugs* Who knows? But great topic!!

  4. I had hoped the that rise of eReaders would draw in more readers (because who wouldn’t want to read a book on their phone, after all! 😉 ) but it seems that only people who are already word addicts have picked up that habit. I guess there will always be that segment of the population that just doesn’t get it …
    Congrats on your upcoming release of 18 Truths! I love that new cover!!
    (And great post. 🙂 )

  5. I think some people don’t read because they haven’t found the genre that rocks them. And some don’t read because they are illiterate, which is sad in this country. My parents were readers and I’ve always read. Can’t imagine not doing it.

    • Good point, Alex. Walking into a store like a huge B&N with so many choices can be overwhelming . . . if they’re not sure what floats their boat, then they probably walk away empty handed. And yes to the illiterate thing. I worked with people at my old elementary school who couldn’t read! (P.S. NOT teachers, lol)

    • I did see him read a Star Wars trilogy once, and he did listen intently while I read aloud the HP series to him. And he gets books every once in a while that he seems excited about, but most of them, they sit untouched in our bedroom, just like me. LOL . . . not really, but how could I miss the opportunity for that joke? 😉

  6. Well, you know you’re singing to the choir with this topic! I’m the kid whose goal was to read everything in the public library, and I made a pretty good dent in it until they took away my library card for chronic overdueness when I was in high school. I passed this gene on to my granddaughter, for better or worse, but not so much to my kids. Weird. Last year my students got really involved in my out loud reading of Skellig. This year, we’ll see. I’m liking 18 Things, so may just try them on that one!

    • Lynn, you are my kindred spirit! It was my goal to read the entire library, too . . . even checked out the Español books. Not knowing what they actually said wasn’t going to stop me!!

  7. I sometimes wonder about such stats. I wonder what the definition of ‘reading’ is. Is it reading GRRM’s latest opus from cover to cover in a single reading? (is it time for another show of hands?) Is it reading trashy/celeb magazines at the hairdressers? Is it reading interwebz-y stuff?

    I wonder what each individual’s definition of ‘reading’ is.

  8. I wish I had the answer. At my school library, student interest ranges from twirling in a circle with a book clutched to their chest to only pretending to go to the library to check out a book. I offer trips, toys, food, parties, and everything I can think of to motivate students, but some kids would honestly rather stare at the wall than read. If you figure out the answer, will you let me know?

    P.S. I love the new blog lay-out!

    • I feel your pain, Lindsey. My 9yo is reading all 15 Sunshine State books (on #10 right now), and she can’t for the life of her figure out why her friends aren’t doing the same when the prize to do so is . . . wait for it . . . SPENDING THE NIGHT AT THE SCHOOL LIBRARY READING ALL NIGHT!!! I know, I may have a bit of a nerd on my hands. But I LOVE it!

  9. I think you’re right about the digital toys that have taken the pace of books in the hands of our children. I’m a reader from a family of readers, and yet my son is more likely to be found in front of a screen or with a ball in his hand. So much of our world is now brightly flashed outside of our minds that it can be difficult to “sell” those worlds that can be found within the pages of a book or the mind. Sad. 😦

  10. I have a stack of fifteen new books from holiday gifts and the like, and I’m ridiculously eager to get into them. I don’t understand why people don’t read, but I absolutely love those who do. ^_^

  11. I can sooo relate to the partner not reading. Mine has yet to read one complete manuscript I have written. At work, too, we always say “people don’t read.” It’s not just fiction, it’s important information about policies and such that people just don’t read. Sad. Congrats on you’re upcoming release. I definitely want to see what happens to Olga next!

    • Aw, thank Shell! Since this one takes place in the Underworld, it seems more serious, but actually has a lighter tone. I had fun writing this one, and can’t wait for the last book to come out! More FUN!

    • You know I like to pretend I have all the answers, but I just don’t know with this one. Seems we’re fighting a losing battle most days. We need another series like Harry Potter to come along and excite people, young and old, to read again. I don’t think I’ll be that author, but I hope someone will be soon!!

  12. Your last line cracked me up! “You’re right. Reading isn’t for you, it’s for everyone!”

    I’m going to have to use that next time someone gives the excuse for why they can’t remember what a book looks like.

  13. My reading takes a backseat to my writing. I’m okay with that. I don’t read fiction when I’m writing – I don’t want to be in someone else’s mindset and world while I am figuring out my own.

  14. This is a tough one – though I agree completely that non readers are missing out on so much wonderfulness, but on the other hand, I tend to think you’re either a reader or you’re not. My family is divided down the middle, with half of us voracious readers and the other half dawdle through a novel maybe every few years on holiday. I think some people avoid reading because they get it into their heads that it’s only worthwhile reading classics/super intellectual (pretentious 😉 ) hot novels but are intimidated so end up reading nothing, so to those I would encourage to read something fun and easy to see if they catch the bug. I read a bit of everything and anything – there are some classics I re read every year, but I couldn’t be reading something heavy all the time, and that’s when glorious trash comes in… 🙂

  15. I’m with you on the reading, in fact a big reason why I write YA is because of the books that were so hugely important to me as a young kid and teenager. I struggle not to judge non-readers, it’s tempting to think, wow, their lives must be shallow and boring, yet i know that isn’t true (well, for some, maybe)… but then I remember I did go through a long stretch where I read less than 4 books a year too, before rediscovering my love of reading.

    • You bring up a great point! There was a time of 2 years when reading took a backseat while I cared more about getting in shape . . . probably should care a little bit more about that again, lol.

  16. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE reading and that’s all I would do if I could! My hubby and I both read all the time. We used to read ALL the time to our boys when they were little. But my complaint about my kids not liking reading is school. They have AR goals they always had/have to meet. It’s so forced that my oldest rebelled in 4th grade and the other one is quickly losing interest in 5th grade. It’s not, what do you “want” to read but what is in their reading level and what the points are. This is just my observation in my house.

    • From a teacher standpoint, I loathe AR as well, but I can testify that when my school did away with it for a year, hardly anybody visited the school media center and read and our test scores plummeted.

  17. PS-I “get” that schools/teacher have to implement this but I don’t like it. I also think your friend was correct that a lot of people that don’t read just don’t know what genre’s they like. They just haven’t “hit” on what really moves them.

  18. I love to read, but I never get to read as much as I want to. Reading unfortunately has to take the back burner to pretty much everything else. Mostly I catch up on vacation!

  19. its a sad state, but its true. most of my friends don’t read, but some do. the factors are limited time and the ease of other forms of entertainment… i still don’t read as much as i’d like to. great post!

    i think the movies that are coming out based on books are encouragement for reading, especially those who read it telling those who didn’t – the book was better!

    another thing i am considering is having pieces of the book read on youtube as a teaser – or getting an actor/model to do it (or a well-spoken person i know… eye candy doesn’t hurt either! ha ha)

    happy monday!

  20. I think many people view reading as work and not enjoyment. I mean, why go to all the trouble for your brain to process words when it can simply watch actors process it for you onscreen?? Something is definitely lost with that approach. And people have become lazy. My hubby wasn’t a reader before we married. Now, he’s slowly becoming one, and he’s read all my books, even if they took him a long time.
    I don’t know what the trick is to get people to read, but we enforce reading nightly at our house, with the hopes it’ll translate to a love of books.

    • YAY for a reading hubby . . . mine has 2 chapters left in 18 Things . . . his year will be up on Jan. 24th . . . hmm, maybe I should consider taking bets as to if he’ll make it or not?!

  21. Having been a classroom teacher, I can SO relate to your post. Also, my husband is anti-reading. Though my daughter isn’t quite reluctant, I will say she has to be prodded. I see no help for my husband, but the fact that I choose a book as a recreational activity over ANYTHING else seems to encourage my daughter to do the same. We visit the library religiously and we both have stacks of books by our beds.
    Would you be able to let your class read one of YOUR books? Do they know you are an author? I can only image this would nudge them to read more (at least read that book). Good luck with your launch.
    Leanne ( http://readfaced.wordpress.com/ )

    • I didn’t choose my pick for our read aloud votes b/c I didn’t want people to think I was pushing my novel off on them . . . most of them have read it on their own b/c yes, they’re very excited about it. Many have asked me if I’ll read the sequel to the class that’s coming out soon.

  22. This saddens me. All of my closest friends read. We share books and critiques; we go to see movie adaptations together. In fact, I’ve met some of my very best friends by starting conversations about reading. Not only will we be less educated as a society, but our imaginations will shrink, the cultural and social life that reading fosters will die.

    I definitely think it’s best to start young, when your brain has the ability to grow and stretch and BECOME what you’re reading. I remember being a little girl and actually praying for the characters in novels, for Kate to please please please find her horse, for her brother to come home from the war safe. TV was great, but books were LIFE to me.

    So keep teaching, Jamie! Not everyone will get on board. In fact, most won’t. But there’s that one boy or girl in your class, maybe in your whole career, who will hear you, and by high school, will be sneaking their latest novel beneath their desks during class. And one day, they’ll pick up their own blank pages, and write one themselves. Because of you. You and your crazy, amazing, book-loving ways. Teach on!

  23. I had hyperlexia at age three, so I can barely remember a time before I could read. It was always such a given in my house, with parents who were big readers too. We never could figure out why my little brother never liked reading.

    It’s nice to have a stock of books for reluctant readers. Even if you think they’re too short, underdeveloped, too much white space, etc., that could be the gateway for a student who’s not into reading and only reads because forced to. It was pretty sad how the brother and sister I babysat aren’t big readers, and preferred to play on the computer instead of reading and engaging their minds.

  24. I love this quote:

    Another quote. “Show me a family of readers, and I will show you the people who move the world.” –Napoleon Bonaparte

    I know too many people in my own family who rarely or never read. It’s sad.

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