Monday, June 09, 2014

In Favor of Reading

A recent NPR Book podcast reported that pleasure reading among teens is at an all record low.

I'm not a teen anymore. Oh well. But pleasure reading has increased in the last few weeks.

I think reading is beautiful.

The tv shows got to be too much. Tv is about numbing it out. There has been a lot that I've wanted to numb and deaden, an easier way through. And it's been a gift, in many ways, a provision. I'm thinking of writing a post on how Dr. Who helped me through the tough times this year (I'm a first time viewer).

But the last few weeks, my brain need a settling, not a numbing. I need to focus, not distract. I was hungry for certain food and I found it in books.

I love my kindle. It's made the year easy in new ways. But recently, I've hungered for the held text, the pages that flip, the wrists that grow tired from holding up the binding. The school library has a surprising collection of books. The shelves are dominated from donated romance novels from the 1940s and 50s, such as a very robust collection of Mary Stewart novels. Yet, there are still several sets of classics. My copy of "Tender is the Night" has underlined words that students used to study vocabulary. I get to hang out with some unseen Bulgarian student who marked each line, looking for new understanding of English and America.

Toting around the hard copy has also opened conversation and instruction

For example, no, "Tender is the Night" is not pornography, as one student asked as I read it on the front steps of school. It is a novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald about Americans living rootless lives abroad. It's a narrative to which I feel oddly connected in my own distance from the physical American geography.

Then there is lovely return to science fiction, a Christmas and an early summer treat of ages past. An anthology of essays and short stories for students. A book about a brave woman, Malala, from Pakistan, who believes in education and learning in a way that humbles me who has always been given it without question.

The pages and the paper smell have returned a sense of space and focus to my mind. I'm in love with the written word again and the heaviness of the book in my purse each day.

Try it. There is no "reading for pleasure". There is only reading and it is a pleasure unto itself.


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