Summer Reading Series: What’s A Reader?

What's a Reader?-2

What does being a “reader” mean to you?

I like to read books. I like to discover new books. I read in my available time. I have a library card. I read books in various genres and about different topics. I read hard books. I read easy books. I usually have more than one book started at any given time – sometimes up to five or six. I read to escape. I read to learn. I read to understand. I read to discover. I read to explore. I read to improve. I read for my sanity. I read for enjoyment. I read to relax. I read.

The first distinction is that I read books. Books as opposed to online articles, magazine journals, Tweets, newspaper blurbs, cereal boxes. I read those too, but if they were all that I read then I wouldn’t identify myself as a reader. I would say that I can read. As in, I know how to read. Knowing how to read is different than being a reader. One is a skill the other is a lifestyle choice.

There is also the distinction of doing the actual reading. Yes, I read. I don’t just love books or buy books or collect books. I read books. If given a day of free time I will spend a portion of it reading a book. When given a day of very little free time, I will spend a portion of it reading a book. When exercising, I will gravitate towards whatever option allows me to read a book while doing it. I wake up early to read a book. I read books in the bathroom (sometimes, not all the time, but gosh darn it if it isn’t quiet). I read books at my desk. I read books in the car (when I’m not driving). I read books in doctor’s office waiting rooms. I am not too busy to read.

The last two parts of the definition speak to diversity in a reading list and diversity in motives for reading. We expect children to move from board books to picture books to chapter books and into a range of other reading options. This is because they are maturing and their worlds are expanding. They can handle more complex themes and they can begin to make connections between the words they are reading and the reality they are experiencing. They, hopefully, start to see that expectation and imagination are tools of empowerment facilitated by reading. And if they continue in their reading and exploring a range of subjects they will, hopefully, grow to understand that being empowered prepares them to confront their world with these tools.

Adults who read should continue to mature in their reading material as well as their motives for reading. Often I hear of adults who read to escape. This is a fantastic aspect of reading, but it is not the only one. Reading as an adult is not a destination. It is good to have favorite books. It is good to read and reread and reread favorites. It is even good and normal to have a favorite genre of book to read. It is not good to never read outside of these bounds. A person who does, limits their expectations of life and their capacity to imagine life. Ostracizing oneself from all other types of stories dulls the tools of expectation and imagination that we claim are so necessary for children to develop.

Read diversity in genres, diversity in authors, diversity in themes and plots. You don’t need to make a chart, celebrate a special day, or otherwise accentuate your choice. You definitely don’t need to agree with everything you read—read it anyway. Follow recommendations and suggestions, whims and periods of intense study. The more I read the more general areas of interest I discover. I have several “themes” that have emerged from my reading in the past couple years. In ten years it may be that one or two have stuck around; more probable is that I will have ditched a few and added different themes and interests. This is one beauty of reading. It can take you anywhere, and you’re in charge. If you like reading and stick to one genre, you are a literate passenger in one subdivision of books. If you’re a reader, you’re in the driver’s seat through histories and galaxies of worlds.

What would you add or subtract from the definition? What do you mean when you say you’re a “reader?”

11 thoughts on “Summer Reading Series: What’s A Reader?

  1. For me reading involves fiction, historical fiction, new curriculum from school and my Bible. I agree that real books are best and that I need to expand my reading purposes! Thanks for a thought provoking post!

    1. That sounds like a pretty good range. I have a few fantasy books that my brother-in-law recommended. Way outside my comfort zone so I’m working up the courage to dive in :/

  2. What a fun challenge this is to me! I do tend to stay in one genre but your discussion here inspires me! I am a reader because I love words or powerful collections of words, quotes. Since I am a bit sleep deprived these last few weeks reading time I simply re-read QUOTES from books I love. I enjoy memorizing my favorites😁. I read in part to facilitate communication… I love quoting the perfect phrase at the perfect moment! But I like the sound of your reasons for reading so much better!

    1. I do think there are periods of life for any reader that are less engaged with reading books – such as birth of a newborn! I love that you are re-reading favorite quotes; what a great way to get a little reading in, remind yourself of what the book made you think about before, AND find time for some rest…maybe. I hadn’t thought of the benefit it could have for communicating – both for the range of vocabulary words and having the exactly right quote for a given situation. I’m adding them to my growing list of reasons to read! The more the merrier! 🙂

  3. This is an excellent essay on reading. I think I can say I’m a reader because I read every day even when I’m busy and I also get up early to read. I read standing up, or for five minutes while I’m waiting for someone, or while I’m waiting for water to boil or for something to bake. In more recent years I try to read nonfiction even though I much prefer fiction, so I guess I am expanding my brain. But diversity is a challenge and sometimes I just want to read to relax. That’s okay, I think. I just read a nonfiction so now I can go back to fiction for a bit, right?

    1. I think that when reading is so enjoyable that it’s relaxing, then it’s at it’s best 🙂 I’ve been having an unusually heavy nonfiction year and I was expecting it to be more fiction. Back and forth seems like the best of both worlds 🙂 You’re in good company!

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