Novel-tea: what reading "should" be

Credit: Soomin Kong/ Credit: Soomin Kong/
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When I was in fifth grade, my school made us complete weekly reading logs. It was something I dreaded more than anything, having to fill up those time logs with reading. I dreamt of doing literally anything else. I couldn’t stand reading. I couldn’t focus and, like many people, when I was told I should do something, it made actually doing it that much more difficult.

It took me a long time to fall in love with books, but once I did, they became something truly special. But, why? Why did it take me so long to actually enjoy reading? For one, I constantly felt bombarded by the pressure to enjoy reading at an age when I felt that was impossible. I felt trapped by reading, rather than encouraged, and it wasn’t until I found a book series on my own, one which I truly loved and was enraptured by, that I was able to love books the way I do now.

There is a widespread belief that everyone should always be reading. That reading fosters knowledge and encourages you to become a better, more educated person, in a way that other media supposedly does not. This idea that reading is something you must always be doing likens it to going to the gym, and books become things you buy merely as a New Year’s resolution to sit pretty upon your nightstand untouched.

While it is true that reading is a great activity for anybody, we need to stop treating it like a chore. Books can be our guiltiest pleasures, a haven for the nerd inside all of us. But, if we continue to treat reading at a distance, making it seem less applicable and accessible than it has the capability to be, we put everyone at a disadvantage. As corny as this may sound, books can be really fun. From cute romance novels, to wild fantasy series with crazy world-building, to nonfiction analyses of the world, there is something for all of us in books. In a world where a new crisis seems to occur every other hour, books help us ground ourselves and open our minds to new ideas and critical thinking.

An article from Vox explains that, “Reading fiction, though, studies have found, tends to retrain the brain to stay open, comfortable with ambiguity, and able to sort through information more carefully.” Reading for fun, for yourself, can do more for your mindfulness, compassion, and sanity when approaching the world than we’re even aware of.

It is high time we stop forcing reading down people’s throats and start encouraging books as an avenue for fun, self-improvement, and compassion that is desperately needed. No one should dread picking up a book; instead, they should be encouraged to read whatever they so desire and revel in that. If your thing is flavoring snails, there is a book for you. If your thing is Lego origami, there is a book for you. Anything and everything you think is a little niche interest; you can probably find an enrapturing book about. Go read it. Stop caring about making sure it’s “scholarly” and give yourself the space to spend time reading about the quirky interests that make you who you are. That is what reading should be.