Recently while cleaning up the children’s section in the library I was asked by a young boy (about 9 years old) and his mom for some recommendations. He said that he had “liked Harry Potter” but “didn’t want any more big books.” His mother told me that she was unsure what to get him as he “didn’t much like to read.” I thought of Eva Ibbotson and Jenny Nimmo as possible authors to go to next and suggested them, but although the books were fairly thin he seemed unenthusiastic (the Children’s librarian agreed with my suggestions). I suppose some people might have been upset by his attitude regarding their choices but I was more puzzled than hurt. What was it that made him insist that he wasn’t interested? And why, oh why didn’t he like to read?
I think part of it stems from the fact that half the fun in reading is the sense of discovery that’s involved – having someone suggest things can be nice but there’s no feeling of personal pride, no thoughts of “I chose this myself, and I’m discovering this book for the first time.” I certainly have felt that way many times – books that we find on our own are often those which stick with us longest. But for this boy I don’t think that was all of it – his mom probably couldn’t have let him loose in the library with the assurance that he would (like some kids) come back with an armful of books that he wanted to read.
So then why do some of us adore reading, while others can’t stand it? I’m an avid reader, one of those people who have more books checked out than I could possibly get through before they’re due. And for me the passion started young. So maybe it’s genetic. But I think it’s a direct result of the environment in which we live. I don’t have a Facebook or Twitter account, I don’t text much, there’s no TV in my house, and we have dial-up internet, which means that YouTube is pretty much out of the question when I’m at home. So reading is one of the only forms of entertainment I’ve got. And frankly, I don’t mind that much. Alright, I admit that the fact that I like reading helps me enjoy the fact that about the only free time activity I’ve got is reading, but I think even kids who don’t like to read might change their minds if they had no choice.
So I challenge you, reader: Live like me for a month – minimal texts, email, and internet. No TV. No Facebook. Just read (and it doesn’t matter if you choose War and Peace or If You Give a Mouse a Cookie). See what happens… and let me know.
Evan, Teen Advisory Group