My Reading Position
I love reading. I flipping adore it. One day without reading and I feel uncomfortable, depleted and just plain wrong.
Reading, for me, is one of the things I just do, like breathing, eating, sleeping… I don’t even consider why I do it. Therefore this post is more challenging to write than I previously thought.
How Would I Get a Readophobe to Read?
Because I see reading as something that just happens for me it takes some thinking about why I actually do it.
Could I convince a readophobe to read? That’s a large undertaking for any of us. Maybe I could begin by detailing what reading does for me by way of some dangling carrots:
- Books smell lush. You cannot bottle that odour. Only books can provide it. You need to have a book at least open in your hands to get your fix. Caution: libraries can cause a book odour overdose.
- Getting lost in a book is an amazing form of escapism. You can become so immersed in a plot and other people’s lives that you find yourself transported there with them. This is particularly delightful if the world you’re living in is a bit crappy.
- Reading can happen with a physical book or electronically. You cannot hold a film in your hands but you can download a book whenever you fancy it. Just like Netflix, you can binge on a box set of books too.
- Reading in bed is a form of heaven wrapped in a duvet and paper. It has been proven that reading before bed is conducive to a good night’s sleep. Unless you’re like me and need to read ‘just one more’ of many chapters resulting in a 3am bedtime. Still worth it.
- Books are teachers. I’ve learnt about different personalities, places, issues, cultures, experiences, new vocabulary and so much more. I don’t even have to leave my chair or bed to do so. Reading is perfect for lazy gits like me.
Would my reasons alone convince a readophobe to read more? Maybe if I said them with enough conviction *read as coercion with a bit of a headlock thrown in*.
I can gush about how much reading transforms my life every time I crack open a book and all you fellow book addicts will be nodding furiously.
I can also guarantee that all these marvellous reasons will largely fall on readophobe deaf ears because this is my love, my reasons, and my connection with books. You can’t know it until you do it.
So the question remains, how on earth do you get a readophobe to read?
Previously as an English teacher of 11-18 year olds, I’ve heard many reasons for not reading. Here are just a few:
- It’s boring
- Books are too long
- We don’t have any books at home
- I don’t like reading books
- Geeks and nerds read; it’s not cool
I always smiled that really annoying teacher knowing smile when I heard these comments, mainly because I like to annoy kids. It was also because I’ve heard them a million times before. Readophobes aren’t original.
I will never try to force anyone to do what I like to do. We all have our own interests and younger people deserve to discover their own too. However, I was a teacher, of English no less, and therefore my job was to make their lives as miserable as possible by force-feeding them with Dickens et al, right? Wrong.
You know the old adage, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink? Well it’s kind of different with teenagers who hate reading. You can lead these horses to water but they will often piss in the pond. Never try to make a teenage do anything, particularly in front of their peers. They will dirty the waters.
Reading unfortunately becomes most uncool, or whatever the kids are saying nowadays, once pubes sprout. Puberty kills books; fact. There are of course kids who read in their teens and manage to style it out but it’s not the norm.
As an English teacher you can either lay under your desk and hope that your classes (or you) will disappear, or you can be a little creative in getting them to read more.
I always had 10 minutes of reading time at the beginning of every lesson. You can imagine the groans at the start of every academic year when this was announced. I didn’t budge on this once. However I did make it a lot more enticing than they thought it might be.
They moaned and gave all the aforementioned excuses. I slayed them down like the ninja reading warrior I am.
I hate reading being made into a chore. I’ve even seen teachers set reading as a detention exercise. Reading as a punishment! My book-loving heart quivers in horror.
My classes’ reading time allowed them to bring in their own reading materials; if it was printed, they could pretty much bring it in.
I did have to edit the guidelines when a smart arse kid brought in a baked beans tin to read the ingredients.
I also had to check Jack’s bag every lesson to make sure he didn’t have his Dad’s copy of Playboy in there.
Jack constantly tried to convince me he was reading the stories not ‘checking out the tits and bits’ as he so eloquently put it. I always called his bluff by opening the mag to the story he was supposed to have read and then asking him to give me a synopsis. I figured this would either catch him out if he hadn’t read it or embarrass him enough in recounting erotica out loud never to bring it in again. We compromised and allowed a less racy magazine for future reading sessions.
Reading time became my students’ favourite part of the lesson. They groaned when it was over.
The girls were swapping chick lit. The boys were drooling over car magazines together. The bookworms were devouring best sellers, and I could also have a cheeky little read in the corner.
I think the key to it all was to make sure they knew reading wasn’t just about books and particularly the books we are always told to read; in school or by reading snobs.
Don’t get me wrong, this was not easy. It took weeks to get the kids reading. There was resistance but making it a pursuit tailored to their choices and interests helped. However, I’m not disillusioned enough to think that all my students were hoovering up books in their spare time.
So, once more; how you get a readophobe to read?
Should You Try to Convince a Readophobe to Read?
Here is where I’m going to be possibly controversial.
I don’t think we should try to get readophobes to read.
There, I’ve said it. Now hear me out.
No one wants the world to be reading more than me, particularly if they are reading my future published works. This alone compels me to put every readophobe into a reading programme consisting of my short stories. However, I know that’s not the answer *secretly plots a reading programme regardless*.
Children in school are a different matter. Kids need to learn to read and read consistently throughout their education.
I’ve encountered illiterate adults who feel such shame and are often living lives of subterfuge because they cannot read. It breaks my heart that they were not given the opportunities to read and grasp a rudimentary understanding of words.
Who I’m addressing are those who can read but choose not to do so for leisure.
I don’t want to do an underwater dive, mainly because I swim like a brick. I have no desire to bungee jump as I quite like my underwear remaining clean. You will never find me collecting stamps or spotting trains because… moving on… play nice Lisa.
There are many pursuits I would never consider or I’ve tried and found weren’t for me. Therefore I have to respect that there are many people out there who feel the same way about reading.
I’ve done my time trying to convince people to read when I was a teacher. I refuse to be a reading Nazi.
I cannot engage in bashing books metaphorically over others’ heads trying to get them to read.
I will not be that person who pulls the face of pseudo pity when someone tells me they don’t read. No one is ill or dying.
If a readophobe does not want to read, that’s their choice. Let it go, those of you who feel like you need to be a poster boy or girl for reading. You’re going to keep losing your readophobe friends. Respect their decision, horrific as it is may seem to us bookworms.
From my experience I’ve often found that readophobes are the stubborn type. They decided not to read the second they left education and have committed to that. They will not be moved. They fend off the glare of a shiny kindle or a laminate covered library book like Dracula in sunlight. They are resolute. Or so they think…
Here’s a secret; readophobes aren’t as anti-reading as they may think. Just like the teens in my classes, they do read.
Let them think they’ve chosen to never read again after school is out but secretly smile as you watch them reading their favourite magazine, working out the mysteries of IKEA instructions, or reading the back story to their computer game.
When they watch a film they are visually reading a screenplay. When they sing their favourite song they are aurally reading the lyricist’s words.
Oh no, they don’t ever do reading.
Oh yes you do, readophobes.
Victory, albeit sneaky, my fellow reading devotees, is all ours.