How I Started Reading
I would like to take an intermission from analyzing specific books, and tell you a little more about myself. If you just can't wait for another book packed full of insights, don't worry. I have one lined up that is 676 pages long. It is old, has been translated numerous times, and wakes up the neighborhood when I drop it on my desk. We will dive back in shortly.
If you have been following along at the Old Wooden Bookshelf, then you've probably noticed that I'm a big proponent of reading. This is not because I aspire to be a guest on Sesame Street or some other educational television show. It's because reading has been pivotal in my own life, and I want to share this opportunity with others.
People who know me are surprised to learn that I was a lousy student in school. I hated school and had a terrible time paying attention. The two fueled each other. I did not fit the mold of the model student. I mixed with school like oil and water. I hated reading, too. I found it frustrating and pointless. Besides Dr. Seuss’s, There's a Wocket in My Pocket, I had not read many books up until high school. In hindsight, I appreciate my school teachers and their efforts, but I can’t credit them with my passion for reading. It came from an unexpected place.
When I was thirteen years old, I started taking Taekwondo lessons, the traditional Korean martial art. I became obsessed. If I was not practicing Taekwondo, then I was thinking about Taekwondo. I quit other sports and started competing in tournaments. A friend of mine, who knew that I was always looking for ways to get stronger, loaned me his copy of Optimum Sports Nutrition, by Dr. Michael Colgan. I started soaking the book up like a sponge. This was the first time I had seen how the information in a book could be directly applicable to my life. The experience was addicting. Where I had previously seen reading as frustrating and pointless, I now saw it as an extension to my training. If I was willing to put the work into reading and applying the information, I could win more competitions.
Optimum Sports Nutrition served as my gateway into reading. Anytime I had a new interest or wanted to learn something new, I would look for a book on the subject. I was the ideal consumer of self-help books.
This change in my view of books gave me fresh eyes in school and in life. I had come out of Plato's allegorical cave. While many of my classmates still loathed school reading assignments, I felt optimistic towards them. I remember sitting in a college Freshmen English class and reading John Taylor Gatto's The Seven Lesson School Teacher. Looking around, my classmates appeared as apathetic as ever. The information was going in one ear and out the other. I was stunned. My only conclusion was that my classmates had become numb to reading. We could have been reading that night's winning lottery numbers and no one would have cared.
This began my passion for books that would eventually prompt me to earn my degree in English literature. Below are two quotes that describe my journey to becoming a reader:
"There is no such thing as a child who hates to read; there are only children who have not found the right book", Frank Serafini.
"Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or duty. It should be offered to them as a precious gift", Kate DiCamillo.
What has your experience with reading been? Is it a chore or a precious gift?