It doesn’t matter. Just read. And read often.
I’ve spent the last few years obtaining a degree in creative writing (and when I say few, I mean 9 precisely, but that story is for a different post). In these classes, I was assigned novels and non-fiction of a literary caliber rich in symbolism and allusion. We dissected novels into literary elements. We wrote extensive analysis on our findings. At the end of each class, my brain felt simultaneously fried and satisfied. While I thoroughly enjoyed the process, I sometimes wished I could just enjoy the plot and revel in the characters rather than figure out the underlying meaning of a certain tree that recurred throughout the story.
I vowed to give my mind a break and read chick-lit or mysteries when I graduated college. Though I did just that, I found myself attempting to dissect these works since that’s what I had been accustomed to doing for so long. It had been ingrained in me to find the underlying meaning or the hidden theme. I felt guilty for attempting to read something that I couldn’t analyze, and then I got angry when there was nothing I could wrap my brain around for further dissection.
And then I came to a conclusion: It doesn’t matter what I read, as long as I am reading. Literary analysis has its place, and so does chick-lit, and magazines, newspapers, articles, blog posts– whatever it is, just read it. NPR recently put out an article stating the amount of teenagers that read for pleasure isn’t nearly what it was 10 years ago. Even though they don’t give concrete reasons as to why this is the case, they elude to the immediate gratification the digital age has brought upon us as the culprit.
I can see the effects of the digital age in my 7 year old. They use apps in school, and much of their learning material is online. They do read the old-fashioned way, but not nearly enough. I vowed to instill my love of reading a book into my son at an early age. I began reading to him daily, but noticed that he got bored or distracted. I realized that he would rather have been playing a game on the iPad instead of engrossed in a Pete the Cat story. Reading just doesn’t have the luster for my son that it has for me. I used to fret about his disinterest, but it occurred to me that maybe I shouldn’t force my “archaic” ways onto my digital age son. I began searching for interactive apps where we could read and he could still engage his busy fingers. I stopped reading only books to him as well. I found that children’s magazines and articles worked well.
Now, my son asks nightly if we can sit in my room and read. I let him choose the material. I’ve learned through him that it doesn’t matter what I’m reading. Literary analysis will always have a place in my heart, but it isn’t the only kind of material that will stretch my mind or tease my imagination.
Reading, whether from prehistoric object called the book, or on a tablet or smartphone or magazine, is what’s important. So tell me, what are you reading?
Photo credit flickr user Jayel Aheram