Growing up, I fully believed that reading was an art. I believed the better I got at it, the more advanced reading I would do. I suppose this will always be true on some level, but I will always remember the moment I realized how seriously misguided I was.
In the second grade after my fling with mystery and science fiction, I wanted to get into what I considered ‘advanced reading’. I went to the school library and checked out Sounder and Tuck Everlasting. Feeling eager and ambitious, I propped my books on the counter for the school librarian to check them out for me. They were handed back to me and I tucked them in the nook of my arm, feeling the delightful weight of my new chapter books. Just before my class was to leave the library, my teacher calls out to whoever checked out Sounder and Tuck Everlasting. Unsuspecting, I shot my hand up so she would know I was the one who checked out these lengthly books. To my surprise, I was told I could NOT check these books out as they were beyond my reading level. Looking back, those books would have posed a great challenge to me, certainly more than I expected at the time. However, in the moment, I was crushed.
When fourth grade came around and I was “old enough” to read these books, I read them with joy and some bitterness at having them taken from me when I was younger. I was one of the top readers in my class that year and I decided I’d never subscribe to “reading levels” again. A few years later I become obsessed with the classics. My Barnes and Nobles Classics collection was, and still is, quite impressive. I read Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Joseph Conrad, Charlotte Bronte, Mary Shelley, Arthur Conan Doyle, H.G Wells, and more. I thought I was quite sophisticated. I was beyond low and middle brow reading. It was my belief that quality writing was all that deserved to be read. I was wrong.
At the time, I was the biggest reader in my household and I was proud of the title. That is, until my twin sister picked up the Harry Potter series. After she found her love for reading, she was unstoppable. My sister was out-reading me. It was okay though, because for a while, I thought my books were “harder”. Sure, I would read the “fluffy” stuff for fun, but I knew I was capable of more. Then one day, I learned my older brother had read Twilight, loved it, and was reading for fun.
This was the moment I re-evaluated my opinions.
How did two people who weren’t much into reading become as avid readers as myself in such a short span of time? I realized that I wasn’t a better reader because of what I read. I realized that what might be considered middle brow reading for some was pure adventure for another. It was around that time I became fascinated by popular literature and genre trends. I’ve learned a lot in my reading and I firmly believe that I’m not sacrificing quality by picking up these books. Popular fiction embraces the culture of its moment and is truly perceptive to its generation of readers. I’ve read books by insightful and inquisitive writers that have challenged my thinking more than certain classics have. I’m not arguing that popular fiction is the best type of genre, not at all. I’m just saying this:
The evolution of reading is perfected by each individual. No one wins at reading. If you read a book, a magazine, a blog, a tumbler post, a tweet…..you’ve already found something wonderful. Don’t stop. Read on.
In 2014 make the time to read that book that’s been on your ‘to read’ list for too long, find a blog you love (maybe this one?), or even write your own. In 2014 discover the magic of words because I can tell you it really does make a difference.
Happy New Year!
Let’s hear how you’ve evolved in reading. Comment below.