149. The Reading Habit

I don’t quite have the reading habit. I read often, for information, inspiration, and/or entertainment. When I was a student, I sometimes read because I was supposed to. But for me, putting down a book is rarely difficult; it gives me a chance to rest my eyes and brain, and it enables me to write, listen to the radio, talk with friends, teach…do things that are closer to being habits than reading is. As a teacher, part of my job was to give children the reading habit. Of all the parts of my job that were difficult, this was the most challenging of all, because I was giving children something I didn’t have. And it was something I thought everyone should have. Most of the adults I know have the habit. Teachers in teachers’ rooms often recommend books to each other – both books on education and the latest novels. Many children spend their free time reading. Non-academics read. I know people who envy my retired status because I finally have time to read. But I spend much more time writing than reading. I suppose it’s a good thing some of us have the writing habit. Those of you who have the reading habit would be in trouble if nothing were written. But one can do both. And I do try. I pick up a book, borrow one from the library, sometimes even buy one. Sometimes, when I’m reading a book, I take great pride in the fact that I’m reading. Then my mind focuses on the pride instead of the book. My eyes glide across the page, never missing a
word. I turn the page when my eyes come to the end of a page. But in my mind, I’m congratulating myself for finally sitting down and reading a book. After several pages have gone by my eyes, I realize that I haven’t been reading. Sometimes I turn back to the last page I remember. Other times, I give up. And I don’t think the quality of the writing is a factor; I’ve had this problem with authors I know I like. I enjoy reading to children, and I hope you do, too. I enjoy having adults read to me, and I know about books-on-tape. Maybe soon I’ll start listening to them. It will still mean less time doing all those other things I like to do, but I intend to do it. I don’t know why this happened to me. I don’t like the fact that I have to remind myself to read. My impulse is to find some people to blame. But my parents like to read, and do it all the time. My teachers liked to read, and read to us often. My own daughters have always loved reading, as do most of the children I’ve taught. If you’re an adult or child who is not hooked on books, I hope this article lets you know that you are not alone. After years of working to get children hooked on books, I’m still trying to find a way to get the habit for myself.

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