So there was this article a few weeks back in The Washington Post: The death of reading is threatening the soul. Pretty heady stuff. Their subhead is Commitment to reading is an ongoing battle.
And I read it at a most opportune time.
See, I was having a discussion about this very thing with Rasa. I love reading. I’m never without a book in my bag, but, like the article says, it’s easy to get distracted. But then there’s another thing which gets to me. It’s the fact that when you read, you have nothing to show for it.
A few weeks ago, I was writing a piece on blind superheroes which will be out as a chapter in a book next year. Obviously, in order to write the piece, I needed to do research, so when Rasa asked me what my plans were for a particular day, my response was “I have to read some comic books.” She took this in stride.
But it got me thinking.
As a writer and academic, reading is fundamental for research. As a fiction writer, reading is how you keep up with what’s going on and learn your craft and style. But for me, the problem comes in when I spend a day reading while not getting anything “accomplished.” If I’m writing, I can keep track of my progress. I have two different spreadsheets I use so I can see at a glance what I’ve gotten done. But with reading, it just doesn’t feel like I’m doing anything.
I know this is wrong. I know I can find the time to read when I have to in order to answer a question or prepare for a class, but I miss reading for fun just because I don’t see an immediate return on investment from it. I feel guilty, even when I’m reading for work, that I’m just sitting around when I could be doing something… I don’t know… more productive.
And now, with Monki and her growing library, I want her to know that reading is fun and a worthwhile pursuit, something she should be doing (or at least experiencing in the form of either Rasa or I reading to her). Having her means I need to re-examine all sorts of aspects of my life, choices I understand as an adult but that I have to be conscious and aware of as a parent.
I must get past my own anxiety and understand that not only is reading important for me and a worthwhile use of time for work, it is also something which leads to less tangible but just as valuable rewards in any context. So I will reprioritize. I will set aside time for reading other than in bed (“I’m just gonna read for 30 seconds until I fall asleep”) and I will lead by example. I will show Monki that mommy and daddy read (Mommy is a research scientist, so that’s easy), that the books on the shelf are there to be used and that while you need to make sure other things get done, time reading is still important.
And if you care to join me on this journey… come find me on Goodreads. Let’s talk about what we’re reading.