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Stephanie Rice wrote this article called, “What If I Hadn’t Read Books As A Kid?” where she describes the experience of reading so much as a child, and how different that experience might have been if we grew up in today’s day and age with the abundance of stimulation and technology that is quite literally, at our fingertips. She writes about her life now,
“I’m ashamed to say I’m not the voracious reader I was as a kid. Like much of the world, I now spend too much of my time staring at a screen. When I crawl into bed at night and debate whether to grab the Bill Bryson book on my nightstand or watch The Mindy Project on Hulu, Mindy usually wins out. But I firmly believe that the reason I can still manage to put words together in a reasonably coherent way is that I paved those neural pathways early. And I’m not totally sure that would have happened if my mom had been able to distract me with her iPhone while she grocery shopped. (Instead, she made up a story about how the carrots danced when I wasn’t looking. When I was skeptical, she got a store employee to corroborate.)”
I love this! There’s something so beautiful about reading, and I feel a little ridiculous when I try to explain it to someone who doesn’t already understand. It comes out of experiencing words and ideas strung together in someone else’s mind in a way that entangles my own thoughts so deeply, and there is a kinship with authors and readers, much like that of movie-makers and audiences, that I find so precious. I’ve loved to read since my parents taught me as a baby. I was the only kid who could sign herself in at preschool, and this jump-started my education in a way that set a course for my whole life. In the article, Stephanie mentions, “Scholastic says the top predictors of how much kids read are whether they enjoy reading, how much their parents read (What? Not how much they watch The Mindy Project?), and whether the kids believe reading for fun is important.” If there was one thing I was certain of growing up, it was that reading was always a good choice, and one that was encouraged by my parents. They took me on countless trips to the library and book fairs as quickly as I could read and finish the books, and I still sometimes escape to the library on my lunch breaks now, as a 27-year-old. The nostalgia of rooms full of books, waiting to be read, never let me down. Technology will never compete with my love for physical, hold-in-my-hands pages! It’s just not an acceptable replacement. I love technology, and my phone, and Netflix, but they just don’t run the same race in my mind.
Ann Lamott, an author and fellow lover of reading and writing, says this in her book, “Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life“,
“Because for some of us, books are as important as anything else on earth. What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die. They are full of all the things that you don’t get in real life – wonderful, lyrical language, for instance, right off the bat. And quality of attention: we may notice amazing details during the course of a day but we rarely let ourselves stop and really pay attention. An author makes you notice, makes you pay attention, and this is a great gift. My gratitude for good writing is unbounded; I’m grateful for it the way I’m grateful for the ocean.”
I sometimes feel selfish to be a reader, because my time spent reading is time spent alone and not in relationship, but this quote speaks to me so loudly because while I read alone, reading makes me better in relationships and community because of what it does for my mind and heart. It teaches me to listen well, to consider experiences far different from my own, to know that people are never simply what they seem. It gives me the “courage to speak softly”, as Susan Cain says. She writes,
“So stay true to your own nature. If you like to do things in a slow and steady way, don’t let others make you feel as if you have to race. If you enjoy depth, don’t force yourself to seek breadth. If you prefer single-tasking to multi-tasking, stick to your guns. Being relatively unmoved by rewards gives you the incalculable power to go your own way.”
Reading is true to my nature, and so I continue to line my shelves and fill my suitcases with books, knowing that reading and books help me fulfill my call to love others to the absolute best of my ability.
Here’s Susan Cain sharing her knowledge about where we all could stand to be a little quieter in this world that won’t stop talking…
Praying you stay true to your nature today, whether books are a part of it or not. 🙂
(Stephanie Rice goes on to talk about how reading led her to start making up her own stories and becoming a writer. She writes, "But what if I’d passed those hours on Tumblr or YouTube instead? Would words still crackle through my synapses the same way today? Would I still leap out of the shower mid-shampoo to scribble down a sentence before it dissolves from my consciousness?" There's definitely a powerful correlation between reading and writing skills and desire. I highly recommend checking out this article by the International Reading Association and National Institute of Child Health and Human Development on"The Reading-Writing Connection" if you want to read more about it!)