The Comfort of a Good Book

"Reading makes immigrants of us all. It takes us away from home, but more important, it finds homes for us everywhere." --Jean Rhys

I often hear my students complain about the chore of reading.  They don’t like the books chosen for their classes; they are too long, too old, too boring.  When I ask them what they would prefer to read, however, the majority of students tell me simply that they would prefer to read nothing at all.  With so many movies, video games, and social media posts to watch, who has time to sit and stare and unmoving words?  While I do understand that our students certainly have many more distractors shouting at them for attention that most of us teachers had growing up, I admit that this ambivalence or even abhorrence to reading makes me sad.

I can’t help but think about all that reading has done for me in my life.  It was the books I read in school that solidified my desire to become an English teacher.  Those books and the corresponding discussions with my teachers and classmates were what brought me to school each day.  I looked forward to the sharing of ideas and the feedback from those around me as I shared mine.  I was able to live inside those books and experience the lives of characters from different worlds and different times.  I lived a thousand lives and loves and adventures, all from tiny Harlan, Indiana.

After finishing school, I continued to turn to books but for different reasons.  As a young mom, reading allowed me an escape from diapers and exhaustion.  As my children grew, I reconnected with stories from my childhood and delighted in the joy of introducing my “old friends” to my children.  As an elementary librarian, I said goodbye to adult fiction for a few years and instead dove into elementary and young adult literature for my young students.  And now, once again teaching high school literature, I look for ways to introduce my students to classic authors and characters, hoping that perhaps my students will feel, as I did as the shy girl in school, that they are not alone.  They are not alone in their feelings of frustration, sadness, hope, excitement, or worry. 

My hope for my students is that someday they will rediscover their childhood love of reading.  They will feel, as I feel, that time spent reading is time spent exploring, learning, and living -- time to have their hearts, minds, and eyes opened to the endless possibilities that surround them -- if they only take the time to open the book.