Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Reading is Fundimental

I was an early reader – like seriously early. As in: a toddler. These days, with all the crazy baby reading programs and all that crap, it doesn’t sound like much, but in those long gone days of no pre-school and kindergarten being basically play time, and general laid-back learning plans, it was definitely well out of the norm.

The difference between the baby readers of today and the baby readers of my day is basically that in my day, if your baby could read, it was because your baby was a natural reader and not because crazy parents were already thinking about Harvard. My mom will tell anyone who listens that while she read to me every day, I taught myself to read. She says that started reading early because I was a messy eater. See, whenever I sat down to eat, my mother – trying to keep me from getting breakfast all over her clean house – used to line the table and under the chair with newspaper. So while I ate, I would “read” the paper, asking my mom what this word and that word were. Eventually, I went from “reading” to actually reading, and I haven’t stopped since.

I was the kid that would be on the silver or gold level SRAs while my classmates were on the yellow or brown. I was the kid who took a book with me everywhere (I still do). I was the kid who had special permission at the library to check out more books than was generally allowed because I devoured them. I was the kid whose aunt and grandma would rush to the store the very day a new Trixie Belden was released, because I couldn’t wait another minute. I was the one whose reading teacher bought her books for Christmas because she wanted to share non-curriculum books with a student she knew would appreciate them (and btw, I am still in touch with that teacher and still sharing books).

It’s funny, though – anyone you would ask would tell you that reading is a great thing. And yet, reading gets no respect, as far as hobbies go. My mom was proud of my reading abilities and yet I can’t even begin to count how many times I heard, “Get your nose out of that book!” People who read a lot often get labeled bookworms or nerds or antisocial (because they would prefer to read than socialize).

I myself have been reprimanded for reading at family functions, accused of avoiding people. I have heard people make comments about myself and others reading in a restaurant or other public place when alone, saying that people who do that are insecure and they use their book as a barrier so they don’t have to interact or to hide their embarrassment at being alone. Maybe some people do that, but maybe – you know – they just like to read!

And then there are the defensive non-readers. The people I have previously described are just a bit clueless, I think, but these people are annoying! Here’s the thing – read, don’t read – unless you’re my kid, I don’t care. Be who you are and own it! I know a lot of people that look down on crappy TV. I am not one of those people. I love crappy, trashy, awful TV shows and I don’t care who knows it. It doesn’t mean that I am not smart or don’t know how to do other, more productive things. But defensive non-readers don’t get this. Instead of having the attitude of hey - don’t like to read, but that doesn’t make me an idiot, they instead act like idiots and put down people like me – people who do read.

I’m sick to death of being insulted by the defensive non-reader. They don’t outwardly insult readers (because like I said – anyone would agree that reading is a good thing). Instead, they drop passive-aggressive insults. Mainly, “Oh, I don’t have time to read!” I can’t tell you how many variations of this I have heard over the years. And yes – I do know that it is hard to find time to read. But we all make time for the things we want to make time for, whether it’s reading, or pedicures, or girl’s night out, or shopping, or going to a movie. And while it isn’t the actual words I & don’t & have & time & to & read that bother me – the tone with which they are said will get me every time. That and the little extras:

Oh, it’s nice that you read. I don’t have time to, though!

I don’t have time to read – I’m just too busy!

I don’t have time to read – I like to spend time with my children!

I don’t have time to read – I work!.

Please allow me to respond:

Fuck you. I’m busy, too, and I read. I also love to spend time with the kids. Sometimes we spend it reading. I work, too. And have a long commute. And two busy kids. And a house and cars and dogs and a cat and fucking hermit crabs and a family who is constantly having parties and friends who I get together with occasionally and a computer I’m addicted to and on and on and on with all the things you do, and guess what? I still read!

If you don’t read, I don’t think I’m better than you or smarter than you, but give me the same respect. If you don’t read – I don’t care. But I sure as hell am done being insulted by the implication that my avid reading means I am somehow lesser than you as a wife, mother, employee – whatever. And also? Fuck you.

I recently had several people (on different occasions) react like I am insane because I mentioned that The Girl wanted a nook (like mine) and that I was considering buying her one. Finally, by the third person, I was done smiling and biting my tongue. When I got the “A nook? That’s a lot of money to spend on something like that for a seven year old!” I responded with, “PS2 - $200, PS3 - $350, wii - $200, xbox - $300, PSP - $150, Nintendo DS - $150, ipod touch - $300+ – that’s a lot of money to spend for a child to pretend to kill people and play angry birds. There is no amount of money that is too much to spend to keep my child reading.”

Doesn’t anyone remember those old 70s commercials? Reading is fundamental.


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Magpie said...

Fuck yeah! Here's to reading!

I have some friends who are on the verge of buying Nooks for their 8 and 10 year olds (because if they get one for the older kid, they have to get one for the younger). And they're clever, because they know how to "take" books out of the library on the Nook. I haven't figured that out yet.

æ said...

Thanks for this post. You had me at Fundimental.

People do that with other things in my life too, and it serves to belittle something that matters to me, and that I do, in fact, prioritize even when it's tricky. I'll add my least favorite version to your list: a smug "must be nice."

Kudos to you for knowing what you like and need, then making it happen.

æ said...

(checky box)

Chicory Blue said...

Nicely put.

Loved Trixie Belden! Still do.

And yep...R.I.F-in my memory banks along with those Mr. Yuck commercials

Shawna said...

Wow. You took all the thoughts from inside my head and strung them together in a perfectly cohesive, coherent post. I've always been an avid reader, and always felt like the odd man out. My grandparents would tell me I was ruining my eyes or that I should have friends that didn't work at libraries. Even my friends now say they're "too busy" to read, which makes my eyes tear up--in anger. I have a full-time (60+ hours/week) job, a part-time writing gig, a 20 month old child, and all of the cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, yardwork, etc. to do. But damn it, I MAKE time to read!

Shawna said...

I also now have an insane desire to re-read all of the Trixie Belden books . . . . .

Logical Libby said...

Whenever I go into a house I check out their books first thing. If they don't have any I know we won't be friends.

meowie said...

Well said

Anonymous said...

Very well said, Gina! I get those sorts of snooty comments not only about reading, but also about writing. I'm busy, too...but, you know, you make time for the things that are important to you in your life. How pathetic that some people just don't get that.

bluzdude said...

I also love to read, but "don't have time to do so." That's because most of my non-work hours are sucked up by TV and the PC.

But vacations? Oh yeah... nothing like having hours and hours of time, away from it all, to lay by the pool or ocean, and read one crappy horror novel after another. Or good ones.

It's like you totally go somewhere else. I hate that so many kids lose that sense of wonder and escape.

Anonymous said...

I totally could have written this post. I love to read, and I do it every chance I get. We have video from family picnics when I was a kid, and you'll see all my cousins running around playing tag (or whatever), and I'll be sitting at a picnic table with a book. Now Flora reads to me, and I just love it. Reading is the best hobby in the world!