I have always loved to read. I think it was just something that came naturally to me.
My mom loves to tell people that she taught me my alphabet as a young child and the sounds each of the letters made. She also loves to tell people that I just kind of learned all on my own how to string words together and start reading.
And I have been reading ever since.
One of my early memories from kindergarten was reading Nancy Drew and the Witch Tree Symbol. I remember my moms’ friends and even my babysitter at the time were all astounded that I was actually reading and understanding a chapter book as a kindergartener. By second grade, I was in advanced reading groups, devouring books from the library faster than I could check them out. I was the kind of kid that annoyed some teachers, as I would read ahead in books we read aloud as a class or would be reading while they gave instructions. One Science teacher commended my love of reading, but told me it wasn’t the place or time to read when I did so in her class during a lesson. To be fair, I was in the wrong, and I always admired her for gently reminding me to put my book away.
I was also a favorite student of librarians, because I was the one who would give honest opinions of the new books they bought, since I had pretty much exhausted the libraries of other books. I spent so much time in the libraries as a student I was well known.
Even when we could not afford much, my mom made sure we had books, whether it be checked out from the library, bought second hand, or treats from the book fairs at school. She and Dad both modeled reading to us kids…. we had newspapers to read every morning and plenty of books in the house. Almost none of them were off limits to us either (with a few exceptions) so I’ve spent plenty of days and nights reading until my eyes were practically dry and bleary. One summer, I exhausted the dictionary and encyclopedias my parents owned, using them to expand my knowledge on subjects such as the Kings of England and aquatic fish and the etymology of the word “the”, among other things.
Simultaneously, I was a writer. Sometimes, I wrote short story sequels to the books I read, making up what could or would happen next. Sometimes, I created fanfics of the stories, taking old characters into new places. But I was letting my imagination run wild. And my parents let me, especially my mother. While many of those stories were lost to time, some survive in pieces on various disk drives and paper scraps I’ve kept, even if they aren’t useable today.
I still read for pleasure today, albeit maybe not as much as I’d like to since I have other demands of my time. But I have spent more than a few hours this year so far laying on the couch or bed, book or electronic reader in my hand, devouring words strung together as my brain hallucinates images from those words.
I have read on public transportation. I have read at work. I have read surrounded by nature in all of its glory. I have read at the beach, in the mountains and deserts, in tents on campgrounds and in various other places. I almost ALWAYS have either a book or a notepad with me at all times these days. My friends just find it normal too.
I say this because I don’t understand three sentiments:
1 – Reading is a waste of time.
I get told that by people who will then in the next sentence proudly tell me they binge watched a show or spent hours conquering something in a video game or even watched an entire live game. How is reading considered a waste of time but those forms of entertainment are not? Don’t get me wrong, those are all viable forms of entertainment, but reading is my choice of being entertained. It’s not a waste of time any more than any other form is. But somehow, it’s likened to being a waste of time more often than any other form of entertainment, at least amongst the people I chat with.
2 – I don’t read fiction, only non-fiction.
I get this sentiment more often from people who are more driven to succeed in whatever they want to succeed in. I’ve had this sentiment expressed to me when I share that I do indeed write fiction (and hey, I write non-fiction too in the forms of my genealogy blogs and history stuff!!)
I don’t get the idea that reading only non-fiction is somehow better than reading fiction. I have read both. I have devoured both. I own plenty of both and find that both are equally important. I have learned from both too. I can’t quite put myself into the shoes of a person reading only non-fiction, but I can learn about events that have happened reading both.
There’s plenty of studies that have been done on why reading fiction could actually be good for people. If you are interested… there is a wonderful tool at your fingertips called search engines that will help you find those studies… but the gist of it is reading both fiction and non-fiction help develop critical thinking, but reading fiction can actually help develop other skills needed to succeed.
So I will keep reading both. After all, my to-be-read pile has a few books from friends in it…. and The Siege Of Strasbourg and The History of Philadelphia in it.
3 – I don’t read that genre.
I write fantasy, and I am not ashamed to say that. Just as I am not afraid to say that I have a love for many different genres, including romance. Granted, poetry is a bit harder for me to read, but I still try. Just like my husband and I watch all kinds of genres on the television screen (except for horror, since it does trigger nightmares for me…. reading horror doesn’t though!), I can be found at least attempting to read every genre, especially if a friend of acquaintance has written a book in that genre. I am willing to try new things and not hold my nose up in the air about it.
So it bothers me when others tell me they don’t. But I also know I can’t change people’s minds if they are made up. I can just keep going and keep writing. Maybe one day, those friends of mine that tell me “I’d like to read your books, but I don’t read fantasy…. Let me know when you write a book in a genre I actually will read” will one day change their mind and give something else a try, like fantasy.
And yes, I have been told that. But I also have been told “I don’t normally read fantasies, but I like yours.”
Reading was, is, and always will be the best way for me to pass my time. After all, without reading, I would not have the magic to write. I would not have the vocabulary I’ve built that allows me to string these beautiful sentiments together. I would not be able to write my own stories if I had not been inspired by others in the first place.
It’s magical. No other activity allows you to hallucinate images just from words on a page. No other activity takes you on adventures of your own choosing quite like reading.
It’s just something that will always be my favorite pastime.
If you liked this blog post and wanted to see some of the fantasy works I have written, check out my Portals Series.
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And as always, #writeyourownstory