Challenging my Perception of Reading

Recently I have been challenged about my perception of reading. The truth is: I love books. I love reading, and always have done. I was the kind of kid who had six books sitting on my bedside table in various stages of progress, and would read under the bedclothes at night. And I have always wanted my boys to enjoy books too, reading to them faithfully pretty much every day of their lives. The reason is that I truly believe their lives will be the richer for being readers. I cannot imagine living without the forays into other worlds that great books provide. I cannot imagine not engaging with all the wonderful characters that inhabit my imagination as a result of extensive reading. English was always by leaps and bounds my favourite subject at school, and the area in which I excelled. But it is also true to say that my formal study of literature slowly destroyed some of the pleasure I derived from books. After achieving an A grade in A-Level English Literature, I was utterly fed up with tearing apart books I loved and over-analysing characterisation and author intention. For that reason I decided not to take my formal English studies any further and studied something new and different at University. I have never wanted my boys to be forced to read so much that there is no joy in it.

Recently, though, I have been challenged about my attitude towards reading, my prejudice towards it. It has gradually dawned on me, though it may seem glaringly obvious really, that not everyone is as enamoured with books as I am, that there are people around me who do live happy and successful lives without this literary dimension. I live with one: My husband is not a reader. And last summer, when we had a builder working on our house, I asked him about books he had enjoyed in an attempt to get some recommendations for my sons. He confessed, "I only read my first book last year - and that was only because my wife insisted!" Well! I was flabbergasted. Yet, here are these men to whom reading is simply not important. And the thing about this realisation is that it has made me analyse what I value, and the way I regard activities my boys engage in, whether consciously or subconsciously. Do they have to be reading or looking at books for it to count as real learning? Well, of course not. It's just that in some deep part of myself I wish so much that they would. Much to my disappointment, the two eldest are not great readers. Does that make them - or their choice of other passions and pastimes - disappointing to me? It shouldn't, should it? That is why this article "Addicted Generations" challenges me so deeply. It is a timely reminder not to cast my eye so disapprovingly towards my gaming son, who now talks about pursuing a career in technology. Just because it is not my passion doesn't mean I cannot encourage him to pursue his chosen path wholeheartedly. Who knows, in this new digital age, how far it may take him?

“Imagine a little girl reading her book intensely. While she reads, she can tune out everything around her. She reads under her covers with a flashlight. She reads in her bath. She walks on the street reading her book, likely bumping against a pedestrian. She spends every extra dime she has on books. She is never without a book or two in her bag. She would like to read at the dinner table if her parents let her … Most people I know will react to this girl with an automatic approving and wistful smile. How bright! How intelligent! How curious! How gifted! I was that girl.”
“How do people react to gamers who are as passionate about games as book lovers are about books? Negative, prejudiced and stereotyped. It is almost a fashion to bash gamer children and their irresponsible parents who are bad for letting their children be glued to the screen.”
“My son is also talented and passionate about many other things. … He loves to spend time with his family. He is not isolated from us. In fact, every game he wins or loses, the first person he shares and critiques with is me, his ‘mother’. No, not all teen gamers want to run away from their family, wear black, and start shooting at strangers. He loves his extended family and is close to his cousins … When you characterize gaming negatively as an addiction, remind yourself that the opposite of addiction is connection. If you see a child who is gaming, connect with them. Engage with their passion as you would engage with a child who is pursuing passions approved by the society. Get to know them and then tell me that a gamer child is disconnected, antisocial, and a danger to the civil society.” #nexstep2nirvana