What makes some people love to read?

love2readbooks

Considering the fact that I want more people to read my blog, I’m certain I don’t read enough other blogs and post comments as much as I should. This reciprocity is one of the best ways to get people to visit and comment on my blog. So they say.

There are a few blogs that I simply adore and I read them faithfully. I don’t always comment – unless they spark a thought in me that must be expressed. One such blog, written by Jami Gold, caused me to think deeply for several hours and days. Read it here.

In short, she discussed how she lost her love for reading because of the way the subject was addressed I school. Since I’ve heard similar things from my students, I know she’s not an anomaly. How can we address this very real problem in our society?

Not promoting a love for reading is only one of many problems in the public school system. In recent years, the press to interest students in math and science has overwhelmed the classroom, thanks to media attention. The truth is, a student won’t be able to access the information in any subject if they can’t read.

Arguably, the ability to read is not the same beast as the desire to read. They are the same species, though. If I want to read, I will learn to do it. If I can’t read, I certainly won’t have any interest in doing it.

Jami shared how a school system in her area asked all students to read or skim a list of books for their upcoming school year. At the beginning of the year, the students choose their four favorites from the eight or ten they read. During the year, they will analyze their chose books in small discussion groups with other students who also chose that book.

This is a great plan, in that it eliminates the aspect of being forced to read a book that holds no interest for you. Everyone responds better when they feel they participated in choosing their outcomes, as well. Small group discussions are an excellent way to discuss elements of literature like plot, theme, characterization and symbolism.

Every plan has drawbacks. The one I see in this case is that many students will NOT read or skim the books. When the time arrives for them to select their books, they’ll find out what their friends are choosing and pick that.

When the time for discussion comes, they may still not have read the book and will just be faking their way through in order to complete whatever the larger, graded assignment might be for the book.

I think back to what made me love reading. I learned to read before kindergarten, sitting beside my mom while my sister read her books from school aloud (she’s two years older). Mom loved reading and invested in library cards or us at an early age. One night every few weeks, we headed to the public library and picked out something to read.

The idea of NOT reading didn’t even occur to me. Reading was the social norm in my home. Even my non-communicative dad read a pile of Zane Grey westerns. While my husband’s family parked in front of the TV, we were in different chairs reading. It might have been nicer to be interacting socially (we did play tons of games but my dad’s volatile moods limited how often that would happen for the four of us).

What about today? I know that I can just look at my sister’s kids and my kids and draw a conclusion.

My sister Connie did the whole library card thing with her three children. The main reason for this was because she home-schooled them; thus the only access they had to a library was when she took them. All three of her kids enjoy reading and will read for pleasure. Sure, they love playing video games, too, but it isn’t an either/or decision. I’ve bought books for them on many occasions – at their request.

On the flip side, my boys are a 50/50 split. I read aloud to them when they were preschool-aged and until they became involved in too many other activities (my oldest was fourth or fifth grade). First, it was the Chronicles of Narnia and then the first three Harry Potter books. I let them choose, but most of the time they were happy to listen to whatever I chose for them.

We didn’t go to the public library. They brought home Scholastic book order forms and I purchased them what they wanted. My oldest son loved fantasy. My youngest son wanted the newest book of world records. Can you guess which one loves to read? Although he still has to be invested in the characters before he will choose it on his own. He has read five or six series and I’m trying to hook him up with some adult fantasy now.

Is the library the difference? I’m not so sure. I failed to mention that my sister didn’t have regular TV. They bought DVDs of series and movies, but the push toward prime time viewing didn’t exist in their home. My sons are not totally sold on watching TV either, but they do view things online.

I think the establishment of normal is the answer.

I’m not pointing fingers here, but my husband doesn’t read books. In our nearly 26 years together, I recall him reading exactly one fiction book: Jurassic Park. He reads manuals and texts to gain certification in his field. Since he teaches at church, he reads the Bible and commentaries.

Read for pleasure? He camps in front of the TV for his recreational entertainment. It’s not unusual to find us sitting together on the couch. I have my iPad and am reading a book on my Kindle app. He’s sprawled against the pillows flipping between a police show, some so-called sitcom or a car program.

In my sister’s case, all five of them spent time reading.

I know my scope of study is pretty limited. I think the shared genetics adds an interesting twist.

I read to escape. I still can go on a vicarious vacation through reading fiction. Perhaps my children have nothing to run away from and that’s why they don’t dive into books like I do.

I’m not a scientist. I am a writer. Writers need readers. This idea that reading fiction has no value deflates my career possibilities. Especially if teenagers buy into it since I’ve written a fantasy series with that age group in mind.

What’s your take on this subject? Do you think family pattern or school dictate in the case of liking or hating to read?

7 comments

  1. kford2007 says:

    You and your hubby sound like me and mine. I’m always reading. he’s always watching. That’s why I need to finish my novels and have them made into movies so he knows what I’m writing. 🙂

    • Jenny-
      My husband actually read the beta manuscript of my WIP but he didn’t have much to say about it. I didn’t really expect him to since he’s not much of a reader, but it was thoughtful of him to ask to read it. Now he knows who I’m talking about when he asks me about my day and I blurt all the crazy things my characters tried on the page.

  2. Jami Gold says:

    Great post, Sharon! Thanks for the shout out. 🙂

    That’s an interesting question about family life and time and reading. Growing up, I don’t recall my parents ever sitting down to read, and while I’d hang out at the school library, we didn’t make regular trips to the bigger libraries. But both my brother and I loved the Scholastic Book Catalogs.

    That said, I think I read more of my brother’s books than he did. 😉

    But now his wife is big into reading, and my parents (in their mostly retired state) have gotten into reading. So it’s not unusual for all the adults to share a room at holidays, each engrossed in our own book. If you ask me, it’s not any more antisocial than sitting watching TV. LOL! Especially as we often share notes about our favorites and try to convince my parents to step outside of their thriller and historical fiction genres (we’ve all read all the Hunger Games) and read something new.

    So I think as we get older, there’s definitely a choice involved. How do we want to receive our entertainment?

    Some will be happy receiving entertainment that has been curated for them (TV) and some want to seek out stories that interest them more specifically (books). Even those who never had the reading bug when they were younger can be influenced by others around them. My brother’s read more fiction in the last 5 years than in the rest of his life and I credit my sister-in-law for that. 🙂

    • Jami-
      Great points. Things can change for us as we grow older if we’re open to trying a different path.
      I think the example of your brother being influenced in adulthood to read by his wife reinforces my point that family roles impact our choices. Sadly, my husband only reads on the treadmill regardless of how excited I get about a book. TV satisfies his need for entertainment, why change?
      Thanks for your insightful comments here and the awesome post that started me down this trail of thought.

  3. jenhud says:

    I think, for some, that a passion to read is learned but is ingrained in others. I am working hard to encourage a love for reading in my sons and some days it feels like I might actually win that battle then there are the off days that give me a glimpse of defeat. I am sure that having a husband who also only tends to read owners manuals and, occasionally, magazines does not help this.

    For me, reading has always been an escape. Maybe it does have something to do with having had such a rough childhood that an escape into other, happier, worlds seemed like a necessity. Or maybe it is simply part of certain personalities. I will say, though, that being a writer, or wanting to be one, definitely lends its own, stronger, pull toward being a true “reader.” I always wanted to be a writer. In the midst of everything else I wanted to do growing up, writing was always at the top of that list. Maybe one day I’ll follow that dream in the same way you are doing it, Shari! 🙂

    • Jen-
      I agree that the need to escape is a big motivator for some people to read. However, kids today have technology – games, apps, social media – for their escape path. I think as parents we do play an important part in instilling a love of books and reading into our children.
      I’m all for following your dreams. I thought it was owning your own bakery? Of course, writing is a good choice, too.

What do you think? Add to the discussion here.