The Joy of Reading

Much has been made of the massive effort Scholastic, Harry Potter’s publisher in the United States, has made to keep the final book secret till it is revealed (and sold!) to all on July 21. Scholastic says it is to keep the plot from becoming known and spoiling it for all those Potter fans out there. (The cynic in me wonders if it isn’t to create more hype and sell more books. After all, on July 22, anyone can be a spoiler by putting key plot points on the web.)

Nonetheless, Time magazine’s article on Scholastic’s efforts concludes with an interesting reflection on what in fact does make reading enjoyable.
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Starting to Read

My recent blog on the need to encourage reading among youth got me thinking about my own early experience with reading. I clearly remember growing up with two older siblings who, to my mind, were book hounds. They belonged to kids’ book clubs and seemed to read all the time. Not me. I was (my coworkers and friends will no doubt find this hard to believe) as social as Paris Hilton at a party in, well, Paris.

With people I was great. Reading on my own was hard. I struggled from word to word. I would much rather be entertaining a crowd. Reading aloud was torture. I remember painfully having to give an oral book report in third grade and only being able to make it through one or two chapters of Winnie-the-Pooh and being mortified at the horribly incomplete job I did in front of the class and the teacher, hoping no one would notice I said nothing about 90 percent of the book. I’m amazed I ever picked up another book again.

But I did, and another, and another. Maybe it was the example of my brother and sister, or not wanting to be left behind. Or maybe it was the membership to that kids’ book club that seemed so cool. But by the summer after my eighth-grade year I set myself the goal of reading Moby Dick. And I did.

So when my kids were young, I had a policy. I will buy you any book you want me to buy. I don’t care if it is Calvin & Hobbes or The Far Side. You want it. You get it. And sometimes they did. We weren’t awash in money. But we made it a priority.

Now my kids are adults, and they are recommending books to me. I borrow their books. And their taste is great–from fiction to history to social commentary.

I believe in reading. It changes lives. It did mine.