Reading is back in the news. It’s one of those perennial topics that pop up time and again to remind us of where we are as a nation: scores are up, something’s going right; scores are down, what are we going to do?
Many of us can agree that not enough people read, and not enough read well. While there is consensus on the research of how to develop effective readers, there is little talk of building lifelong readers.
Sure, we librarians strategize how to promote reading: book clubs, book talks, book contests, book toks, book tiks, books this, books that. But we don’t do enough marketing about how fantastic the reading process is.
Losing yourself in a book
I don’t want to do anything else when I read a book I love. I can’t imagine a better experience than being lost in a good story. It could be a biography or narrative nonfiction, but nothing compares to perfect fiction. Perfection is subjective, but I mean perfect for the moment or stage you’re in.
The best reading moments are private ones. It’s when I’m so immersed in a story that I forget myself but exist as a specter on the edge of the characters’ lives – privy to their thoughts, conversations, and actions. I’m a spy with total access. I forget about the author and roam about this world that my imagination conjures from the text. And I delight in the characters’ antics and charming exchanges, sympathize with their misery, judge their decisions or lack thereof, and understand who they are. Because in real life, most people don’t have the insight (or the authors) into their insecurities, needs, relationships, and personality that characters do. It’s a privilege to get to know others so well and be in their lives so closely without responsibility. To be absorbed in this world that I don’t want to share or talk about because it’s just for me.
Reading can be a great way to build community, discuss challenging topics, and critically analyze what is happening. But sometimes, it’s good to have moments where you don’t care what other people think – what offends, annoys, or angers them because this experience is for you and you alone. It’s essential to get out of your life from time to time, your problems, your ruminations, your head. It’s healthy to escape and jump into another narrative and appreciate the beauty of the art form. With movies, TV, and videos, it’s easy to get distracted by what’s happening in the periphery or being on a second device. And even the best movie or VR experience is created by other people. With a book, it’s just you, the page, and your mind alone.
Author: Leanne Ellis
I am a School Library Coordinator for the New York City Department of Education’s Department of Library Services. I plan and deliver workshops, provide on-site instructional and program support to school librarians, coordinate programs, administer grants, and am program coordinator for MyLibraryNYC, a program administered with our three public library systems.