The other day I was talking to my twelve year old niece. She said she hated reading. Obviously, as a writer and an avid reader I was not overly happy to hear this. She said reading was boring and why would I want to read when I could run on the beach or play catch or do anything else.
Now running on the beach or playing catch are definitely worthy activities, no argument there, but it upset me that she didn’t seem to think reading was too.
Just today I saw my niece and noticed two of her novels laying around. The two of which she finished in less than a week. And when I asked her about it, she still asserted that she hates reading. I asked her if she liked the books. Sheepishly she replied, “yes,” and so I asked her again, “You hate reading?” “Yes,” she replied. We stared each other down for a moment. “Why?” I questioned. With a smile and a chuckle she answered, “cause it takes too long,” then left the room.
Now, before I entered this line of questioning I wondered if her “hatred” for reading was based on some outside influence – friends who said reading was for nerds or made fun of her for reading. And so, even though she obviously did like reading she insisted on stating the opposite.
After the line of questioning I think I’m even more disturbed. I know that my own attention span has slackened over the years thanks to all the stimulants around us – tv, internet, texting, messenger – a plethora of things that leave us “multi-tasking” away our days, and which isn’t multi-tasking at all, but just never really focusing on one thing.
Reading a book is one of the few things we have left that we can’t really mix-in with our multi-tasking. Yes, you can read a book while doing other things, but it’s really difficult. When reading, you can feel that pull to ignore whatever else is around you and focus on the page. And when we let ourselves focus? That’s when we’re able to really let the book take over our minds. Be it becoming wrapped up in some other world or letting someone else’s thoughts mingle with our own – broadening our horizon and frame of reference – focusing on a good book, letting ourselves actually take the time to focus, is worth it. It’s one of the few activities we still have where our attention isn’t pulled in multiple directions.
Even though my niece says she hates it and says reading takes too long, I’m glad to know she reads nonetheless. I look forward to the day when she says she loves it!
As a side note, we went to the beach this morning and ran and played volleyball. Now my niece is contentedly sitting in the sun room…reading.