On Reading Habits

carpe gaudium

Recently, Laurie Halse Anderson (@halseanderson) connected a few people with a teacher on Twitter who wanted to be better at recommending books to all of his classes and to foster a love of learning. @halseanderson is definitely someone who I admire. She walks the walk. She owns, controls and uses her privilege and for good. Remember @DiversityJedi? Yes, she’d be one of those knights out to fight the dark forces of universe.

Literacy, the ability to navigate information, is an important tool those knights have. I couldn’t respond to that request with only my list of books! I remembered my days working with students in the library, asking about their favorite movies and hobbies and had to suggest the same to this teacher. Know your students and what they like. Also, let them know you enjoy reading! Keep a book on your desk and talk about books. They have to know that you read for fun. @MorganJaxon brought in more great suggestions including providing time to read in class and being sure to read books you want to recommend; be able to talk about them. In short, you can take someone to the library but, that won’t make them read. You can give them a book but they might just sit on it.

I met a grandmother once at a Goodwill and when she found out I was a librarian, she wanted to know how to get her grandson to read more. I suggested she take him to the library, let him pick out his own books and she should get some while they’re there, too. And, get his eyes checked for visual problems. It’s the same suggestion I gave to a former student of mine, Cesar, who wanted his son reading more. I’d given Cesar a copy of Always Running years ago and it got him hooked.

Do you talk about books much with students, co-workers or friends? I think I’m more likely to ask people what they’ve read than they are to ask me. Still, people love to recommend books to me; I guess they think librarians need more books to read. My friends have a hard time accepting that 97% of the time, I’m reading youth literature. They think I should be able to discuss adult books.

I find my own books through reviews at BookRiot, Twitter, from Notes from an Islamic School Librarian or from reading descriptions that I add to my list of new releases. Honestly, I don’t really look for books so much anymore, I just find them in the piles I have at home or in the citations of articles I’m reading. It’s become a rather organic process for me, and hard to describe to others. I get so overwhelmed in bookstores! There’s the thought/guilt of all the books I have piled at home, the challenge to find that ‘new to me’ book and the impossible decision of what area of the store to search all rolled into one.

But then, just because I’ve started a book doesn’t mean I’ll finish it. Will you? Do you have a prescribed must read amount of pages before giving up? Somehow 50 pages has become a magic number for too many, resulting in something intriguing happening in most books (regardless how good they might be) around the 50th page. I can’t always last that long!

I really wanted to read (and like!) Himawari House by Harmony Becker (First Second) but, I do most of my fiction reading at home in the evening and I struggled with the light font so much that I gave up on the book. Nightcrawling by Leila Mottley (Knopf) was strongly recommended to me and I can see why. While the writing was exquisite, the book was filled with so much Black pain, anf void of a single once of hope for the protagonist that I gave up. Pretty much the same with Break this House by Candice Iloh (RH). Oh, she can write! But, that poor Yaminah was just too miserable for me. That poor child didn’t like anyone or anything. I’m not there for that at this point in my life. Lightlark by Alex Aster (Amulet) is another one getting great reviews. Alex is a quite a storyteller! The premise of people dying because they fall in love is just… can I call it ridiculous? Love is as essential as water and is essential to every meaningful relationship we have. I was out.

I think there’s an important element in literacy that allows us to put a book aside. In the confluence of what recognizing what we’re feeling from the book, what we’re willing to imagine and deciding how we want to spend our time. Learning how to navigate the world means being able to make good choices not only about the books we choose to read but, also about the ones we choose to finish. There are books I finish that I don’t like, I suppose I’m willing to let them stretch my imagination, or maybe I’m enticed by what I don’t like about the book. There’s no science to this, there doesn’t need to be. Certainly some books will be like chores but most will be joy. Choose joy!