Respect for Readers

I spent my “spring” break in St. Louis for a service trip with the College Democrats. Our trip focused on urban education, so we volunteered at several youth-centered organizations. The first day we helped out at an after-school tutoring center, and the following day we assisted children at a local Head Start. For the remainder of the trip we spent our time at a charter school called KIPP Inspire Academy. This school serves primarily low-income, minority students who are behind grade level in most subjects. Everyone in the building devotes their time to closing the achievement gap and go to great lengths to ensure success. The students spend long days at the school and have high expectations for themselves. As the students wait in the hallway to move to their next class, the teachers require that they read a book to make good use of their time. Here, the teachers attempt to instill the habit of reading for pleasure among the students. I love this–mostly because I wish I were one of those students.

For me, this continues to be something I lack. I may have been suspicious of the kid in 7th grade who would rather read books than socialize during homeroom. Not now. That’s the student who produces insightful essays and contributes intelligently to class discussions. He’s the person I want to be. I long for that self-motivation to pick up a book instead of spending time on Facebook or watching a movie. I want to be the person who reads during lunch instead of gluing my eyes to the television screen. I think I would be a more informed reader and stronger writer. As we all know, the best writers have done and continue to do a considerable amount of reading.

Is it possible for me to get to that point? Or is it too late? I understand it will require much self-motivation and persistence. I know the results will be positive. If I were to spend a little more each day reading books and long-form essays, my writing would see slow and steady improvements. Still, old habits are difficult to change. I acknowledge that in order to improve my writing I will have to improve my reading. Less time reading Twitter posts and more time reading pieces in The New Yorker. Sure, I could say “I don’t have enough time.” However, that’s simply not true. I just need to do a better job at allocating my time. Of course, I will steel need to sneak in the occasional episode of Breaking Bad.

2 thoughts to “Respect for Readers”

  1. I’m right there with you. When I was a kid, I was actually that kid in homeroom reading. Sometimes, I was the kid in class with the book under the table, pretending to be subtle. Now, however, I find that most of what I read is for school. The rest of what I read is comprised of random stuff on the internet. It has been a while since I read a quality book in my spare time. I make excuses. I don’t have enough time. Books are expensive. etc. Yet, I know I need to make it more of a priority. Books are examples of the long game- imagine holding together a narrative or argument for 250 pages- and so there’s a lot to learn from them.

    But don’t feel bad about watching BreakingBad! TV is just another medium of story-telling (somebody had to write what happens and what the actors say) like books- it’s just delivered differently. It’s just about how and what you watch. Shows like Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and the Wire have tones of ideas, social commentary, literary devices like books, you just have to be an attentive critical audience to see them and engage those ideas. Admittedly, though, for every Breaking Bad, there are three or four crappy reality tv shows.

  2. Mark,

    This post made me realize just how much I’ve neglected reading outside of academic purposes over the last few years. I’ve found that I have made similar excuses (especially the ones Julia has mentioned above) to not read, but why? It’s something that I’ve always enjoyed immensely but for some reason never carved out enough time in my busy schedule to do it nearly enough. I feel the same way about my writing, as well. When I was younger I kept a million journals that I wrote in every single day without fail; now, the thought of writing (not using a computer and typing, but actually WRITING) scares me! I think the main reason for that is I’ve lost a lot of patience as I’ve grown older. I want to get things done faster and more efficiently, without wasting any time. I think that mindset is responsible for my neglect of reading. As a college student, I have different priorities, ten million things on my to-do list (with leftover items from yesterday… and the day before…), an unrealistic sleep schedule, etc., all things that aren’t exactly in the recipe for true pleasure reading. However, I’m just as hopeful as you that with some attention and hard work I can get back into the swing of reading more and I’m also equally optimistic that this attitude can only yield positive results.

    – Allie

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