What does being a reader mean?

Being a reader does not mean that you have to read all of the classics like Don Quixote or The Great Gatsby. It took me a long time to understand and accept this.

I agree that it helps to read the classics to understand the references made to them and to gain insight on what makes writing timeless.

When I became an English (Ed.) major, I chose the career out of love for reading and writing. I read young adult novels, and I wrote abstract emotional poetry. But what I didn’t know then was that I’d get to read all types of literature from different time periods.

I don’t even think that I knew that some books were considered classics. I was an oblivious first-year generation college student just meeting the course requirements.

I then found out that I didn’t like some of the classics or some of the most famous authors’ writing styles. It took effort to understand some works like Beowulf. This could have been lack of critical thinking on my part.

When I learned that the English Language we use today is not the same as it was centuries ago, I finally understood that because of these changes in the language, it took effort to understand some texts like Shakespeare’s sonnets and Emily Dickinson’s poetry.

I also found out that sometimes writers believed that through writing they must show or prove how smart or intellectual they are. I found the following quote in the book Style: Lessons in Clarity and Grace by Joseph M. Williams and Joseph Bizup:

Generations of students have struggled with dense writing, many thinking they weren’t smart enough to grasp a writer’s ideas. Some have been right about that, but more could have blamed the writer’s inability (or refusal) to write clearly. Many students, sad to say, give up; sadder still, others learn not only to read that style but to write it, inflicting it in turn on their readers, thereby sustaining a 450-year-old tradition of unreadable writing.

This quote reminded me of all the times I’ve felt unintelligent when reading books, essays, and articles. I agree that it’s important to read writing that challenges us to a certain extent. This helps practice and strengthen those critical thinking skills ;). I admit that I can get very lazy with this.

Yet, I find myself at home when I read writing that keeps me, the reader, in mind. The writing that doesn’t require me to look up the meaning of a word every couple of sentences. The writing that allows me to take breaths and to admire the beauty of simplicity and conciseness.

When I worked at a library, a patron once told me that she’d just retired from teaching. She said she now had extra time to read trashy novels. I admired her for admitting this. She didn’t want to curl up with a blanket and a warm beverage to reread a classic. She just wanted to read.

For a long time, I thought that a reader was a reader when they were well-read, when they read every day, and when they could list names of classics and names of esteemed writers.

I’ve been in a reading slump for a long time. I used to devour books. Reading books felt like a competition. I asked myself: How many books can I read in a week, in a month, in a year? I don’t have the craving to be a reader of books anymore. I sometimes blame my short attention span and lack of interest or motivation.

Within this reading slump, I’m redefining what being a reader means to me: There are times when readers don’t read, and that’s okay.

What does being “a reader” mean to you? I’m also curious to know: What gets you out of a long-term reading slump?


Note: I’m planning to catch up on blog reading this weekend. We started state testing today, Wednesday, and we’ll be testing through the rest of the week. So there’s been changes in everyone’s schedules, added stress, etc. After today’s first day of testing, I’m thinking the next two days will probably flow better. See you then!