I’ve always felt a little like the odd person out when it comes to people who love to read. I love to read, but I’m fairly slow at it. Having spent 7 years in the University system doing some pretty intense coursework, you might think otherwise. University taught me to be a champion skimmer; I could pull the salient points out of a stack of science papers with great efficiency. But while fellow bibliophiles spoke with accomplishment about the books they had consumed, I gazed longingly at the stack of tomes I struggled to get to, let alone through. I’ve come to think of reading – particularly long reads like novels – as a set of muscles that need to be exercised.
Reading for leisure often hit the back burner in favour of things I had to read; mostly academic journals and in-depth current events pieces that were relevant to what I was doing at the time. The latest book of the month or top ten on the New York Times best seller list would just have to wait. Sadly, those reading muscles started to atrophy, and I found it harder and harder to get through something like a novel. My reading for pleasure had been reduced to about 20 minutes before going to sleep, ending with the words swimming before my eyes – not really all that pleasurable.
Despite my leisure reading falling by the wayside during various seasons of my life, I have always felt the pull to integrate reading back into my routine, and jumped at the opportunities that have presented themselves. I binge read the first few books of the Harry Potter series during a particularly horrible bout of food poisoning in between quitting my job as a popcorn slinger at a movie theatre and propping up some slipping grades at school. It felt great (not the food poisoning or failing grades, but being able to finish a book without feeling guilty about the pile of papers on my desk).
We can’t always wait until we’re nearly incapacitated to find an excuse to read. Leisure reading has many benefits. It keeps our minds nimble, strengthens our vocabulary and grammar skills, builds empathy, and boosts our creative thought processes – all crucial to our success in other aspects of life. With growing demands on our time, it’s not easy to make the time to read, but always worth taking the time to read. Even if it’s only 20 minutes before we go to sleep, our reading muscles will still get a bit of a workout. It might take a year to get through War and Peace, but who said that reading is a race? Join me and take the time to read by checking out a book from the Library – and if you are a slower reader, like me, you can renew your book through our website (www.haliburtonlibrary.ca) or even over the phone – so you can take more time.
*Originally published in Haliburton County Living on October 17th 2013