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.