I can’t remember learning to read. It’s something I feel like I’ve always known how to do.
Of course, I was not born with the ability to read. That would be crazy.
I think I first got an interest in reading because of my parents. They both made the decision to instill a “sense” of reading in my sister and I at a very early age. They did this by constantly reading in front of us. My mom would read the newspaper every day in front of us. She bought us these tactile toddler books, made of cardboard and layered with different fabrics, so that we could “read” as best we could. On his side, my dad would read us bedtime stories. Sometimes The Hobbit. Sometimes The Velveteen Rabbit.
Eventually, I just sort of…picked up books. I started looking for ones I would like, even if they weren’t made of cardboard. My family made trips to the nearest Barnes & Noble on weekends, and by “nearest,” I mean 2 hours away. Regardless, we would spend hours there, and I would come home with a stack of new books that I could only hold by placing my hands underneath the pile and using my chin to secure it.
It’s only now that I’m grown that I realize that reading as a hobby is not as prevalent as movies and TV shows would have you believe. Pop culture has us thinking that gorgeous nerds who enjoy Tolstoy and Vonnegut are around every corner.
I used to think adults were being patronizing every time they ooh-ed and ahh-ed when they saw me sitting by myself, reading a book. Now I know they were gasping over a rather rare specimen.
People read, people have to read, on a daily basis. You read menus, instructions, labels, and signs. But a woefully small amount of people actually read books for pleasure. Like books books.
And that’s terrible.
There’s a quiet joy that can come from reading a book for pleasure. You find one you like, because of course you cater to your preferences, and then in your spare time, you immerse yourself in another person’s world, another person’s story, another person’s thoughts.
Reading a book is like dipping yourself into another person’s perspective, and when you learn to think about another person’s point of view, you gain empathy. You gain the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes.
Granted, reading is not the only way to learn empathy, and it’s also no guarantee that you will be empathetic.
But it’s a great place to start.
I think that reading as a kid is incredibly important not because it’s a future life skill but because as a child, you’re at your most selfish. When you’re in your single-digits, you have this mindset that you’re at the center of the universe. (And to make matters worse, you never knew you thought that until after you’ve grown up.) Books help to alleviate that habit.
Well, the title of this post, upon a second reading, sounds a tad accusatory. Like I’m about to start getting on people’s cases for not reading enough.
…I think I am.
A person’s hobbies should be their own thing. I’m not going to prescribe reading as a hobby for people.
I am going to prescribe reading as a part of everyday life though. I think reading a book should be as commonplace as eating lunch or driving a car. A person should do it everyday. If you are a human being alive on this planet and you have the capacity to read a book, you should goddamn do it.
“Wow,” you might be thinking. “This particular Below Average post is a bit vitriolic. Who spit in her coffee this morning?”
You don’t even have to read an entire book a day. Just a chapter. Heck, just three paragraphs. But by incorporating reading a book into your everyday life, your speaking skills will improve, your writing skills will improve, and your people skills will improve.
Well, forgive me for being irate, but I’ve had it up to here with people who have no regard for reading. And that includes people who insist reading is just a hobby. People who think reading is just a pastime are idiots. They’re the Mr. Wormwoods of our generation. (Props to any and all Matilda fans out there.)
If you believe that language is a basis for civilization and society as we know it, then reading that goddamn language should be part of that foundation.
It’s not a hobby if it built empires, established societal connections, and formed the baseline for communication, you know what I mean?
Reading is essential for humans.
So…you want to know the reason for this whole post?
Well, where I live, there is not a single bookstore anymore. Not a one. The last one we had closed two years ago this January, and half of it was a teaching supply store because they had to make ends meet since not enough people were buying books.
So how about before we build our town’s seventh Starbucks (and you Below Average Blog readers know how much I love my coffee), WE OPEN ANOTHER BOOKSTORE BEFORE I LOSE MY MIND?