READING: CHORE, PLEASURE, OR ADDICTION?

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Reading means different things to different people.  Lots of people learn to read in school, but view it as a necessary chore, something they have to do in order to pass a class or please a teacher.  All too often this point of view comes from being bored and uninspired, or from having a hard time and never gaining confidence in their reading skills.  When this type of student is forced to read out loud in class, the problem is magnified.

I was lucky and learned early that reading could be a source of praise and an incredible escape into new worlds. My identity and self-worth was tied to my performance in school since I wasn’t very good at relating to other kids. I usually got A’s and often ended up a favorite of my teachers, which definitely did not enhance my relationship with my classmates. My school success also created friction between me and my brothers. It wasn’t bad enough that I was the oldest and left in charge of them when our parents were out, once we were all in school they quickly got sick of being compared to me. Reading helped fill in the social void because books were my constant companions, and served as my escape mechanism from day to day reality.

School success sometimes was a wedge between me and my brothers, but the worlds I discovered through reading filled lonely hours and took me to places I’d never dreamed of. My mom’s example got me started since she read all the time, clearly getting a lot of pleasure from reading since she always had an open book near her. I devoured books, reading all that was available in the school libraries, then moving on to the public library near our home. I wasn’t very discriminating, reading anything that looked interesting, so was exposed to a wide range of subjects and ideas. My teachers didn’t mind my reading so much because they seemed to understand how important it was to me. I’ll never forget one day in 8th grade. I’d opened one of my favorite books, “The Black Stallion”, by Walter Farley, which I’d read many times, and started reading after completing the class assignment. When I raised my head after finishing the riveting last chapter, I looked right into the teacher’s amused eyes, shocked to learn that the class was deep into a new assignment. My focus on the book had been so complete that I’d missed his instructions!

I’ve heard addiction described as needing something every single day. Simplistic, but a reasonable definition, and one that definitely makes me a reading addict. Reading is as important as breathing, something I literally cannot spend a single day without. Before the advent of the Kindle I always had a book with me, or two books if I was nearing the end of the first one. Now my Kindle contains hundreds of titles, and if I run out of new ones I’ll start rereading an old favorite until I can purchase some new ones. Every single time I sit down I start reading, if only for a few sentences. I read practically anything, but do prefer something with a plot and characters I can believe in and care about. The reading addiction has now led to my newest passion, writing. My greatest satisfaction now is hearing from people who find pleasure in reading my books. I guess you could call me a “reading pusher”, since I love hooking other people into the reading addiction that has meant so much in my life.

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