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Why I Read

In logging on to write today's post, I noticed I haven't been on my site since December 9. Whoops. My intention is to post new content once a week, but even the best of intentions falls by the wayside during the insanely-lovely holidays.

I wanted my first post of the new year to be something inspiring, something resolution-worthy. But the sheer exhaustion of post-celebrations left me feeling less-than inspired.

Instead, it sent me diving into a warm blanket coupled with a hot cup of coffee and - what else? - a book. My mind drifted to how much I love reading, how I didn't used to love reading as much, and why it so fuels me now.

I jotted those thoughts down, the hope being that someone out there will find a little of themselves in what I have to say or see reading and books a little differently than they had before...

It is 6:41 on a Tuesday night, rainy and cold. My family is away shopping. I just walked back from the library, titles in tow. As soon as I cross the threshold, I plop my pile of books on the counter and pad down the hall with the intention of changing into my flannel jammies. It was that kind of day. Plus, I'm no night owl.

After changing, I head for my books because - it occurs to me - I'm really excited to choose on to read. My options: Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes, Ana Maria Reyes Does NOT Live in a Castle by Hilda Eunice Burgos, and Stella Diaz Has Something to Say by Angela Dominguez. I wonder at this excitement of mine. What do I like so much about reading? Why is it something I so look forward to?

Though I'm an avid reader now, that wasn't always the case. In elementary school I rarely (if ever?) visited my local library and hardly finished the book I got out at school. My literary tastes consisted of Sweet Valley High books, the classic Nancy Drew, and my mom's People magazine. In fourth grade I fell in love with Anne Shirley, but that didn't really change my desire to read. My household also didn't have much in the way of reading material either. As I approached high school, "the Cannon" kept me busy - Chaucer, Thoreau, Whitman, Fitzgerald - all the required stuff. One exception was an AP project I did on Alice Walker, which exploded my teen-aged brain.

Sadly, college as much of the same. Keeping up an insane reading schedule just to stay on top of coursework. "Pleasure reading" did not exist - even though I was an English major studying to be a teacher. I'm sure I must have been introduced to kiddie lit at some point in time, but that brief meeting was not memorable.

Once I started my teaching career, I found that I had time to choose books that I liked, books that interested me. I also became surrounded by colleagues who loved reading and sharing their enthusiasm (and books suggestions with me). I quickly learned what I didn't like (thrillers - too intense for me) and what I did (historical - love going back in time). I also began reading YA literature when I saw what an impact it had on my students and their reading habits. Book after book captivated me; the stories where rich, the writing poignant, the effect so lasting.

So why did I (and do I continue to) read? Here is some of what I love most:

  • I read because my real life is safe and boring. I can experience adventure and things/places I never would be able to otherwise.

  • I read because I love learning new things.

  • I read because I can't afford to travel everywhere I really want to go. :)

  • I read because I can't travel back in time but really wish I could.

  • I read because sometimes I don't want to talk to people (truth).

  • I read because it's better for my brain than watching TV or YouTube videos.

  • I read because writers are amazing people who put words together in ways that make me laugh, cry, think, and wonder.

  • I read because other people's stories inspire me to be better.

  • I read because I live in a country where I can.

  • I read because it feels good to curl up with a book after a bad day.

  • I read because I need to escape sometimes.

  • I read because I want to understand people and things that are different from me.

  • I read because I want to be entertained.

  • I read because I want to be informed and have stuff to talk about when I'm around people who are smarter than me.

  • I read because I can choose whatever I want.

  • I read because it makes me feel smarter.

  • I read because it helps me see where I am wrong.

  • I read because it helps me grow as a person.

  • I read because I like to be amazed, shocked, grossed-out (only occasionally), inspired, challenged, corrected, cracked-up, and whole.

Why do you read? What about your kids? Reading is one of the most important things we can do to broaden our minds and strengthen our characters. Take some time today to think about why you (do or don't) read. Then head out and grab yourself a good book.

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