Want to know a secret?
For a long time, I didn't like to read.
It's shocking, I know. As someone who works for a library, just admitting that fact feels like it borders on blasphemy.
But it's true.
Here's the thing: I loved reading as a kid. I would tote piles of books with me around the house. I would walk around with my nose buried in the pages. I would compete with my fellow classmates to see who could achieve the highest reading level. (No matter how much I tried, I could never quite catch up with these two other girls in my grade. It was a hard battle, but they earned their title fair and square and I respect that.)
And then, something changed. From the start of middle school through the end of college, I rarely read for pleasure. I started to dread reading. I would put off reading assignments until the last minute and then sob my way through five chapters the night before I was being quizzed on them. SparkNotes became my friend, but it was an unhealthy, codependent sort of relationship where I relied too much on it and it usually let me down.
So what changed? How did this budding young bookworm turn into someone who started proudly declaring, with a twisted sense of pride: "I'm just not a reader"?
In hindsight, there were a few different factors that contributed to the decline in my love of reading.
One is that I didn't like being forced to read certain books in school (who does?), and so having to spend time reading so many books that I wouldn't have chosen to read myself eventually gave me a chip on my shoulder.
Another reason was that, unfortunately, there was a point in middle school when it became apparent that liking to read wasn't "cool" anymore. I didn't want to be seen as a nerd by the kids in my class (more than I already was, anyway), so I tried to dampen my love of reading whenever I was around them. Eventually, I think I even convinced myself that it was true.
This reason is a little too complicated to explain in depth here, but in fourth grade I started to develop some obsessive compulsive tendencies that made reading really hard. I would read the same sentences over and over and feel like I wasn't comprehending them, which led to a lot of tears and frustration. I started to avoid reading at all unless I absolutely had to for school, and even then it was a struggle just to get through one chapter.
Lastly, I think getting a smartphone contributed to my reading slump. There were (and still are) so many distractions right at my fingertips that required less mental effort than reading. To this day it still takes a lot of self-discipline for me to put my phone down and pick up a book instead.
Whatever the reasons were, by the time I was a freshman studying English in college (ironic, I know, considering how much reading English majors have to do), the activity I once loved, one that had always provided a sense of escape and comfort, was now a source of stress and anxiety.
So what changed? How did reading become a source of joy for me again, to the point that I've read over 50 books (and counting!) in 2022?
For one thing, no one was forcing me to read anymore. I had the freedom to read (or not read) any book I pleased, without worrying about being graded on my knowledge of the material or my ability to write a ten-page essay on it. Reading became something I could do just for fun again.
For another thing, I started working for a library.
It sounds cheesy, but it's the truth. (No one is bribing me to write this blog post, I promise!) Working for a library right after college — and for the next several years after that — helped me fall in love with reading again.
Maybe it was seeing all the books coming in and out every day and realizing just how many are out there. I was being exposed every day to titles and authors I'd never heard of before, ones that were way more interesting to me than the ones on my required reading lists had been.
Perhaps it was meeting other people who had no shame when it came to their love of reading, whose eyes lit up when they saw the stack of books waiting for them on the holdshelf and who would babble on about the book they'd stayed up all night to finish to anyone who would listen. (Usually the person listening was me, and I loved it!)
Maybe it was the times when I got to help a child find something new to read, and seeing how excited they would get as I handed them the book reminded me of a time when I felt the same way. Or it could have been all the beautifully illustrated picture books I got to read aloud when I was doing storytimes, books that reminded me of the magic of being a kid again.
Whatever it was, it worked, because I now love all things related to reading.
I love talking about reading.
I love getting recommendations from other people who love to read.
I love adding titles to my TBR (To Be Read) list on Goodreads, and I especially love adding titles to my Read (past tense) list on Goodreads. (The first list grows much faster than the second one, but that's okay.)
I love making Reels and TikToks that have to do with reading. My favorite thing is when fellow readers comment on a video and say "Me too!" There's just something unique about the reading community as a whole. Even if the types of books we enjoy are completely different, we still get each other in a special way.
So in conclusion, after going too many years as someone who would cringe at the sight of a book, I can happily say that I love reading again.
And I have our little library to thank for that.
Is reading something you've always loved to do? Let us know in the comments below!
Kati Davis has been working for Avon Grove Library for six years. Some of her favorite books are The Chronicles of Narnia series by C.S. Lewis, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, and the Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer. Kati loves cats, bubble tea, and graphic novels. One of her favorite parts of her job is running the library's social media accounts. She especially enjoys making TikToks and Instagram Reels!
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