28 September 2014

CONFESSION: I Temporarily Lost Interest in Reading Because of School (Plus, How to Prevent It from Happening to You)

I began learning how to read when I was two years old. I was fairly proficient in it by the time I enrolled in kindergarten at age five.

My parents read me bedtime stories in the form of picture books, and then by means of the Little Golden Books collection, and around second grade I started reading short novels. (Now, for the record, I'm in love with thousand-page books.)

But let's slide that to the side for a second while I recount to you why I used to not appreciate stories.

::gasp::
::gape of unadulterated shock::
::other sounds of horror::


I can't think of many ways to properly explain it . . . 

. . . but I suppose one of the simplest ways would be to describe why it happened.

I partially lost interest in reading when it became purely an academic motive. You've noticed by now that the American federal, state, and local governments are trying to compensate for our shabby educational system by encouraging students to read (which they obviously should have started doing decades ago, and I can't understand why it took so long for the truth to be recognised) and by creating more standardised tests (which are slightly irrelevant in my eyes, because it hardly ameliorates the current tests, and American kids are still performing poorly and with below-average scores compared to most other developed countries). Past and present support for educational improvement is evidenced in the work of plenty of parents, teachers, and politicians, including some of our nation's First Ladies.

Not only this, but around the middle of primary school (roughly the age where most children can read competently enough and at the same level) was when we, the students were first introduced to reading for academic reward. It was at this age when I was first assigned book reports and related projects, such as reading for a mandatory amount of time every night or filling out a reading log that had to be decorated with my parents' signatures. Also, in my home state of Pennsylvania, students are first given the PSSAs (a standardised test which includes a reading portion, among other subject portions) in third grade; this test continues through eighth grade and is followed by the Keystones, (also a standardised test specific to Pennsylvania), PSAT/NMSQT, SAT, ACT, and others.

By the age of primary school I was regularly reading for leisure, but the time that I typically used to do so was gradually stolen by school reading regulations. For instance, during and after eighth grade, as an Honours English student and as part of the rigorous coursework, we were instructed to complete the traditional "required reading" throughout high school. (This included literature like The Catcher in the Rye, Romeo and Juliet, etc.)

P.S.: I feel as though Joshua Fechter provides some similar details. Read his article "The Worst Thing Our Generation Can Do To Ourselves Is Forget The Value Of Books" on the Elite Daily website. (If it looks familiar, that's because I referred to the same article in my previous post.)

All of the academic focus on reading removed the "enjoyability" factor from it. Before secondary school I viewed reading as a relaxing, fulfilling, uplifting, personal action that I found solace and satisfaction in doing.

My education almost ruined that.

It happened to me, but maybe we can stop it from happening to you.

I understand and support the encouragement of young kids to read. Reading should be a lifelong hobby of everyone, and one of the easiest ways to spark that interest is to persuade people to read throughout their childhood and adolescence.

Part of what prevented a complete hatred of books in me was the friendship I made with the girl who is now my closest friend. I had known of her throughout primary school, but didn't fully have a conversation with her until seventh grade. This girl has adored novels since second grade and, fortunately for her, never lost interest in them (not even temporarily like I did).

Being in her presence for several parts of every weekday brought me to appreciate books again. It's one of many reasons why I'm thankful to be her friend. She rescued me from losing one of my most valuable passions.

And here are some methods how:

Allow me to increase your motivation to pick up a book with as-practical-as-possible:

  • Visit the library twice a month. If you're having trouble locating something interesting, or if you really can't drag yourself out of the building with a book under your arm, challenge yourself to check out one intriguing novel. Next time you go, challenge yourself to check out two. Then three.
  • During your spare time, sit down at the computer and compile a wishlist of books. Is your favourite author going to publish a new novel next month? Slip the title of that book on the wishlist. Is there a film being released soon that you want to watch, and it was adapted from a book? Put that on there, too. Then, give the wishlist to your family and friends several weeks prior to your birthday or the winter holidays; hopefully somebody will gift you one of the books.
  • Every time you drive past a bookstore, go in. Even if no displays catch your eye, you can still buy some tea or coffee and sit down to people-watch.
  • Talk to people. You probably haven't networked since you tried to land your first post-college job, but here's the good part: you can ask friends, relatives, colleagues, and especially librarians for ideas as to what to read. If you're not surrounded by literature-lovers (which you should be), engage that person at the nearby café table who's grasping a novel. Don't forget to offer your own recommendations, too -- it's only fair.
  • Take it slow. You might have not read anything in so long that it's hard to develop a routine again. Alternately, you might have aged so much or your tastes might have changed so that the genres you used to love can no longer hold your attention. So, take your time and experiment. If you used to read fiction series, explore poetry or short stories or nonfiction. If the only horror books you read as a child were the Goosebumps instalments, move up a few levels to Edgar Allan Poe or Bram Stoker.

These guys won't miss you, really.
Image via Jennifer the Writer at Wordpress.

Sometimes bad things happen to good people.

In case that good person is someone young who is losing interest in reading -- perhaps your niece, nephew, cousin, friend, neighbour, whomever -- I think you would be right to intervene.
  • Invite a friend to accompany you on your bi-monthly voyages to the library. Make it a contest: which one of you can leave with more books? Which one of you can finish reading all of your books faster?
  • Attend book-to-film movie premieres, if you're excited by them. Or, if that good person is interested in a certain franchise, wrap up a copy of a DVD or of a movie soundtrack really nicely and gift it to them.
  • Lend them books. I know, it's kind of hard, and I personally refrain from doing it in most cases. But if you possess a novel that you believe they would enjoy, and if you feel as though it would revive their interest in reading, it might be worthwhile. (If you don't want to loan them your copy, consider giving a new copy as a present.)

Gradually losing interest in books is a suckish experience. If it's happening to you, try to reverse it. If it's happening to somebody you know, advise them to snap out of it, because books are awesome, dammit.


Have you ever disliked reading? What caused it and how did you overcome it? Which books make you love reading? I'm curious -- let me know in the comments!

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