Reading is good for us. We know that. We all do, or at least deep down, we acknowledge the fact that it does us no harm. Then why, if we know this to be true, can we never make time for it?
I have a few guesses, though none and all are right and wrong in equal measure. When you love doing something, you tend to be a bit biased. Perhaps I am not the ideal candidate to be writing about it. Then again I can, at least, speak of its merits if nothing else. And there are very few things in life that deserve their accolades as much as reading does.
It starts with us growing up I suppose. Nothing influences a child more than what he or she sees at home, and that includes books. Shelves teeming, quivering with stacks old and new. Spines cracked with use and those untouched, tales read at the bed or just watched on TV. Weekly visits to the library or never having stepped in one at all. Moments, people, priorities and situations shape the way we think and approach the many facets of life. There is no right or wrong – please don’t read this as a judgement against people who never visited a library. It is a decision I respect, even though I don’t agree with it. They really should visit a library once.
We go to school. Teachers harp on and on and on about books and the importance of reading (I should know. I was one of them). Sometimes they will set up a library in class, encouraging everyone to at least try. Sometimes, your very favourite one will say 4 words, just 4. And that’s all it takes. “You should read more,” he told me when he read what I had written in my very best language at 9 years old. You should read more. He passed away a couple of years ago but I will always carry what he said close to my heart. It changed the way I saw myself and the world around me. Just 4 words. Imagine that.
I suppose labels don’t help much, not when you’ve already got your hormones to deal with. Reading loses what lustre it may have possessed when you hit teenage years and just want to fit in. I don’t think I ever had much problems with that, but I admit, I did read less then. You’re a nerd if you read and for some reason I cannot fathom, nerd isn’t cool. Nerds pretty much rule the world but maybe you lack the foresight when you’re 15 and all that matters is that you’re not seen wearing the same sweater twice in a row.
And then we’re catapulted into studies and work and the days suddenly start becoming shorter. It’s not that reading’s not cool, I just don’t have the time. Ah, time. I wonder how much we’d accumulate if we counted the minutes we spend scrolling aimlessly on one feed or another (guilty). There’s something to be said about the gratifying effect of social media. Whether we feel sorry for ourselves or happy that we got more likes this time round, it is addictive. It is such easy bait and we are such easy preys. But never mind, even if we did keep that in check, that still doesn’t allow me to fit in reading entire books, right?
Thing is, books are not just books. They don’t exist only in their entirety. They are pages, they are paragraphs, they are chapters. They are words. How many words can you fit in that 10-minute “break” catching up on a feed you’ve already seen? Average readers can read up to 200 words per minute so that’s… 2000 words. If an average novel’s page contains 250 – 300 words, that’s 6 to 8 pages in 10 minutes. TEN. How many can you fit in 30 minutes before you go to bed? How many can you fit in an hour?
It’s all in our mind. We HAVE time. We just waste so much of it.
If you’re the person shaking your head, thinking, I don’t like reading, well, I don’t enjoy watching football that much so I kind of understand. But if you’ve never tried, if all you’ve ever read are textbooks you were forced to read at school, then I’m sorry. You have no idea what reading is all about. You only discover the joy of it when it aligns with your other passions. That’s all there is to it. I on the other hand, know exactly what a football match is like.
Ah, but to read. To jump into someone else’s skin for a while. To see a country you’ve never even heard of. To lose yourself in a fantasy that’s playing out in your head better than any graphical movie you’ve seen. You give characters life, you breathe soul into the words and they come alive only for you. Isn’t that just magic?
I truly believe in the power of the book and I know I’ve said this on many occasions (as many as I could fit in probably. Sorry for the spam). But I don’t think I’ll ever stop. There are still so many people bent on the belief that reading is time wasted, that it’s no use for them anymore. How is learning to be more understanding not of use to anyone? How is knowing about things or people you love or admire, useless? How is reading about the world or country you live in, irrelevant to you? How is finding yourself a waste of time?
I’m a romantic, but of course you’ve already guessed that. Blame the books, I suppose. But beyond that, beyond the tales and adventures, there are life-lessons to be felt. There is knowledge to be learnt and stories to be heard. And if we don’t open our eyes, thumb the pages between our fingers, if we don’t surround our children with books, if we don’t tell our students, you should read more, then all the discoveries, all the progress we’ve made will be for nothing. And God knows, we need more readers in this country.
Read. Read more and when you’re done, lend your book, borrow another and read more. You will see the difference. Actually, you will feel it.
When do I read? I get it often from people.
- I wake up early to avoid traffic and find easy parking in Sliema (the horror). Sometimes I have an hour to kill, sometimes less. I try to make time for my book then.
- I will always carry a book around with me. Whatever the occasion. You’ll find one in my bag and if not, there will be one in my car. You never know when you’ll be punctual and have to wait for the rest of the world to show up. Or when, you know, there’s a queue, which is practically wherever you go on this island.
- Sometimes (though very rarely) I take reading breaks. That’s literally 10 – 15 minutes in between tasks.
- I encourage people to read. The more people around you read, the more you feel like reading yourself. It’s infectious.
- Build a community of readers. Instagram is good for that. One of the many reasons why I love Instagram is the people I’ve met there through our shared love of books. You get recommendations, you give. You build a relationship with readers and books alike.
- We’ve already seen how far 10 minutes of reading can take you. I try to squeeze that in before I fall asleep.
It doesn’t take much, I promise. Let me know what you decide to start on.
– R x