‘Why do we have to read?!’ The question I have been asked by several disgruntled children over the years. Is there truly a simple answer to this question? This led me to thinking about why, as an adult who is able to make decisions for herself, I continue to read daily. Initially I answered with the cliché ‘because I love it!’ but why do I love it? And so I thought a little deeper, which I appreciate can sometimes be dangerous…
When I was very young I used to read because I was told it would make me clever. I had absolutely no idea how it was going to do this or indeed what that even meant – clever at what? Was I not already clever? How would I know if it was working? It wasn’t until I was in my teens that I actually started to enjoy reading and found genres and authors who excited me.
Then I became a teacher …
About 3 years ago I moved schools and went from having scores of children who enjoyed reading and had access to countless books at home to, what can only be described as, a challenging class in a deprived area. Reading for enjoyment was a completely alien concept to them and during these times in class they would stare hopelessly into space hoping that they would somehow become invisible.
Encouraging reading became a daily struggle – we went to the local library, had class Book Clubs – which I am sure were initially only enjoyed because of the free food. Countless hours were spent in class just reading and when I say ‘we’ I do indeed include myself in that. I introduced a variety of books that I knew they would enjoy, I sourced books based on their interests, I shared what I was reading too – well I shared what I could, no 10 year old needs to hear about the murderous goings-on, raunchy encounters and violent clashes in the latest psychological thriller I was engrossed in.
Within a few months I had three boys in the class fighting over the copy of ‘Divided City’ and had to order another two to keep them from recreating the violent scenes from the story itself. That’s when I knew that I was beginning to change the culture and these children’s lives.
So, to get back to the initial question, Why do I read? I read because I see the impact it has on us as humans, especially our young people who begin to see the world differently. I have seen first hand how reading allows children to better articulate themselves due to their increased vocabulary. It improves concentration and focus and their view of the world around them, giving them confidence to challenge others ideas and thinking. I read not only because I want to be a positive influence on the children I teach but because I love the feeling of delving into a different world, a different life where I connect so much to it that it feels like it is a part of my own. This is something I think everyone should experience. Why do you read?