Reading: Achievement or Experience?

Welcome January, with all its hope, joy, a bit of looking back, and a boatload of questions wondering what will happen this year?

Like many of you, I have spent much of the last week or so catching up with my favorite bloggers and readers who post on social.

That got me thinking … and thinking led to what I hope will be
a new feature: posing a reading-ish question once a month. So here goes.

Is reading an achievement or an experience?

At the end of the year there were more than a few posts by readers summing up their book-ish lives in 2018. What struck me was how many people were looking at their reading life and saying “whoa.” As in …

Whoa. When did reading for the purpose of enjoyment/escape/relaxation/etc. morph into a something else?

What was the “something else”? Basically, three things:

  • A (self-imposed) competition to reach specific goals.
  • A means of self-promotion and selfie-ism.
  • A measuring stick of personal success or failure.

Reading their posts nudged me to think a little more deeply about my own reading. I am guilty of turning reading in on itself and moving away from sitting with a book “just because.”

I’m also guilty of pushing myself through a book just so I can get that check mark just to say “I read it.” All this thinking led to another big question:

What message am I modeling?

  • That reading is a race to a finish?
  • That I am less of a person if I don’t meet my goals?
  • That no matter what I have to finish every book I read?

It’s that last question that bothers me the most. I believe very strongly in the idea that there is a “just right” book for every person. I also believe that if a book doesn’t offer something to the person holding it, then it is Okay to let it go.

The bottom line: I discovered that when I made that unconscious (?) shift from reading to achieving, I was modeling some of the reasons why kids say they hate reading! Words and actions collided. I was showing them the opposite of what I said reading offers them.

So what will happen for me this year? I am going to be more deliberate in my reading activities. I will keep a list of the books I read and set goals that reflect different types of reading not the quantities of books.

How about you? Where do you want your 2019 reading year to lead?

One response to “Reading: Achievement or Experience?

  1. This is very interesting, Terry. I have mostly steered clear of reading challenges myself because they make reading feel like work. Even the 48 Hour Book Challenge paled after a couple of years for that reason. I’m pretty good about dropping a book if I don’t enjoy it (though I might skim in a nonfiction title to be able to say I read it, if I have something to say about it). But what’s happened with me lately is that I’ve been on a big (adult) nonfiction kick. There are a bunch of reasons for this, but something that someone wrote, and now I can’t remember what it was, made me worry that I’m doing this to make my reading time more “worthwhile.” As in, I can no longer justify reading for enjoyment, and have to be learning something or improving myself all the time. This … requires further thought. Definitely not what I want to be modeling for my daughter.

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