Friday, August 31, 2007

For the love of books

There was an article in the paper not long ago citing a "recent survey" that found that only 1 out of 4 Americans have read a book in the past year. I don't put a lot of stock in surveys, but I like that the question has prompted some discussion among bloggers about how our own reading habits fit in with these statistics.

Sometimes I think I feel about books the way my Italian friend feels about food and recipes. It's not just enough to try a book/recipe. You have to first give careful consideration to what kind of book/recipe you want to try. Then you have to make sure just the right ingredients are available. You enjoy the entire experience of cooking/reading the selection. And then afterward you discuss it in great detail so as to relive the entire experience.

Even though I'm currently a "reading snob" I can see how it would be easy to get out of the reading habit, and did so for a number of years. My love for reading started in the third grade with Charlotte's Web. After that, it seemed I always had my nose in a book, through grade school, junior high and high school. I developed the habit of picking up a book and, literally, not stopping until I had finished the last page. I guess in those days I was a fast reader and had the luxury of a lot of time on my hands. In college, I was so absorbed in required reading for history and English classes that I had little or no time for free reading and just fell out of the habit. If I couldn't read a book in just a few sittings, it didn't seem worth starting.

Later, at some point, I joined a book club, partly to get out of the house when the kids were little and partly to stimulate my brain to think about something other than diapers and pre-school literature. It wasn't until about six years ago, when I had foot surgery that I fell back into reading -- and finally learned to discipline myself to read a few chapters if that's all I have time for! My foot surgery turned me into a couch potato for about a week -- 24/7. And after that, I was on crutches for several months, so I still had lots of down time. I remember reading several books --Doris Kearns Goodwin's No Ordinary Time, is the one that sticks in my mind, and I realized how much I missed reading as a daily activity. Now, it's rare that I don't have at least one book going.

I grew up in a family that loves books. My parents were both readers, and our home contained numerous bookcases, including one in every bedroom. For my 10th birthday I received a bookcase for my bedroom and I was so excited! A place to put more books! We had a strict bedtime as kids, but were allowed an extra half-hour before lights out to read.

My husband always has a book going, though we read very different kinds of books. He reads every night before he goes to sleep. I am amazed, however, that when he's too tired to continue, he can stop himself mid-paragraph! When I get together with my family, the topic of conversation always turns to "what are you reading?" My aunt, mother-in-law and stepmom are always sources for a good book and we are constantly trading books among the four of us.

I think the whole idea of instilling reading as a habit in kids is one of those nature vs. nurture things. My oldest son has had a book in his hand since he was first able to grasp at anything. Even before he could read, he was taking books to bed instead of a blankie or a stuffed animal. Yes, being a first child, my husband and I were determined to do everything "right" and we read to him without fail, every single night. But we did with #2 also. And he rarely wanted a book read more than once. We would often have to coax him to sit still for a story. He was expected to do the same reading programs as #1, took him to story hour and to Barnes & Noble for a "treat" where he would (and still does) head for the games or music department. Other than the sports section of the newspaper, he just doesn't like to read. Child #3 got the same reading prep treatment though admittedly not as enthusiastically or consistently. She loves to be read to, and at the age of 10 has taken a sudden interest in the library, the book store and writing stories. I think that you can provide all the books and opportunity, but the love of reading is something that people often come to on their own.


Robin said...

YOUR THE ONE!!! I used your book meme on my blog and I could not remember where I got it. I will go back right now and edit my post.

And I think you are right - reading is a personal thing. You like it or you don't. I don't understand those who don't - but I accept it! And what a person likes to read is personal too. But I know I couldn't live very long without a book - I truly love to read!

Lynne said...

I can't be without a book. Every day I NEED to read. I can't remember if I read that much as a youngster (too long ago!), but I do remember going to the library and using the library at school.

Dom, on the other hand, never reads. He might glance at the newspaper and maybe a magazine, but he never reads books. I've bought him some books on the Civil War - he's really interested in that time - but he won't read them.

Susan and Donna are occasional readers. Susan only likes one author and that's all she'll read. Donna will read a few, but she just doesn't get the thrill out of reading that I do.

I'm still working on Shelby. She has gone through spells where she'll sit for hours and read, but not right now. She's reading THE ROAD for school and hates it.

I can't understand why people don't like to read. I just don't get it.

Boomeyers said...

I sure have guilt over that 3rd one! Once we moved to a new house, all our habits changed and she got read to less and less. Now that she is 10 I have to drag her kicking and screaming to read. Still looking for the niche for her. She is all action, reading it too much sitting!
Anyway, great post!

justabeachkat said...

I've been out of town and so I've enjoyed "catching up" on your blog tonight.

Books are one of my true loves. I always have one I'm reading and I also listen to books on tape when I'm in my car. I hardly ever listen to the radio or CD's anymore. I love books on tape.

Great post!


kim said...

Great post, Karen! I found myself in a restaurant tonight for a few minutes alone and NO book!!!! I was meeting my daughter, my best friend and her daughter for dinner and a movie and I was the first one there. I had left my book in the car--Oh No!! I was frantically looking for something, anything to read--had to settle for a grocery list in my purse! ;)

Have a great Saturday--

Tristi Pinkston said...

I'd be really interested to know just which segment of the population they were polling. I've probably read enough to cover a few small towns. :)

I feel really sorry for people who don't read. It's an escape, it enriches your brain, it makes you a more interesting person, and I believe that you come to appreciate and enjoy life more because of it. I therefore feel sorry for 3 out of every 4 persons in America. :)

Anonymous said...

I remember the bookcases in every room too. I used to love setting my books up on our own book shelf. I've forgotten that little part of growing up. We have one in each room today, even "little dude" has one. I need to make sure he knows the significance and importance of having your own book case. Thx!

Xandra said...

I can't imagine life without books! It's just unthinkable.

Just yesterday, I went to eat lunch after work but not before I ran into Barnes and Noble for a new book. (I bought Concise Theology by JI's wonderful!) I went to Panera Bread and sat contentedly eating my soup in a bread bowl and reading to my heart's content.

Candace Salima (LDS Nora Roberts) said...

I travel around the nation speaking on the power of literacy in the home and family. It did my heart good to see your post today. THANK YOU!

Stacy at Exceedingly Mundane said...

Wonderful post Karen :) I love the comparison about nature vs nurture, and how each person is totally different. So true. I do love to read, and am so grateful these days to have time to read. I really love to read every day, and if I don't get a chance during the day or at bedtime, I really feel like a part of my day has been messed up or just missing. :)

Great post, very well stated!

Judith said...

How did I miss this! I haven't been paying enough attention lately.

Thank you for a superb post. Only one out of four reading is so sad.
I've met a few people who couldn't read, and it seemed like a big dark veil hung between us. I can't name only one thing that kept me from being like them. No books were in my childhood home, but thank God I moved around a lot, and noticed my Aunt's nursing books, and somehow discovered a long story of I believe, it was Evangeline and her lover, separated in Canada, and ending up a long time later in Louisiana. It just captivated me. I'm not sure which of these came first, just glad that they did. Grade school teachers read Robert Lewis Stevensen stuff in class, but what headed me to really loving books was my aunt making a big deal of getting my first library card. I didn't even know what book to choose, only that there was a big room full of them, and I could. Aunt Allie helped me believe I could read!

Christie Belle said...

I love books too, I like the term book snob, lol. I have the habit of not putting a book down until I finish it too. I love reading, it makes you use your imagination. In fact, I think I'm about to start a new tonight. It's been a while since I last read a book, and I think it's about time.

Karen said...

I'm itching to start a new book. It's been too long. All of our kids were exposed to reading at an early age, too. One of them doesn't like to read, but the other two do. My hubby loves the Dekker/Peretti books.
I tend to go through phases. It usually pertains to my interests at the moment, as to what I am reading.

gail@more than a song said...

Great post Karen! I saw that about the article and found it hard to believe but I think I'm sheltered from so many people sometimes. I love to read, started with Nancy Drew books maybe, children's lit was one of my favorite classes in college. I taught school before I had kids and was determined to read to mine from birth on and I did but not all of them love to read now. The youngest doesn't like it at all. I'll read almost any fiction book now and get twitchy if I feel like my pile isn't big or if I go out of town and only have one book with me! Silly I know.

kim said...

Happy Labor Day--I tagged you.

Judy said...

Wow. Charlotte's Web caused me to fall in love with the student teacher who read it to our class in the 4th grade. I remember that he cried when Charlotte died. Oh! Whats NOT to love about a man who cries!

My kids are readers like you describe. The oldest read and still reads ALL THE TIME. The middle one just finished the latest Harry Potter,she hasn't read a thing since the last one. The third one never read much at all but the sports page, but is now interested in all kinds of reading. At the ripe old age of 23.

I broke my leg one summer and all I could do was read. I hardly remember the pain, just the stories that got me through!

Excellent post, Karen!