When I was in kindergarten, I was the kid who spent every second of my free time voluntarily reorganizing my teacher’s collection of books (Yeah, I know. I’m a nerd. Now stop judging and keep reading. Thank you very much). I would sort them differently every day, whether it was alphabetical, color-coded, or whatever random system I came up with on that specific day. I didn’t particularly like sorting things; I just wanted to be near the books, with all of their colorful cartoons and stories that made my imagination erupt in a million swirls of creativity and excitement.
When I was in second grade, I was the kid whose favorite place to be was the library. I was the kid who got yelled at for trying to sneak home sixty books at a time because I just couldn’t decide which world I wanted to experience that week. I craved books. I remember spending my weekends glued to a book, hungering to experience lives other than my own. I would wake up early every morning just so I could get a solid hour or two of uninterrupted reading before I had to officially begin my day.
Up until eighth grade, reading was a passion of mine. It was my happy place and I cherished every moment that I spent in it.
Something changed after I entered high school though. All of a sudden, reading was a chore that I could not escape fast enough. The books that I read in school bored me, or even if I enjoyed the books themselves, the repetitive, arduous assignments we completed based on those books made me resent reading as a whole. Having to motivate myself to read for school left me with little motivation to find books outside of school that I actually enjoyed. I found that I hardly ever wanted to spend the little free time I had reading because it felt like a task, not a passion or even a hobby.
It actually wasn’t until recently that I rediscovered my passion for reading. How, you may ask? Audiobooks. I would one-hundred percent recommend these for anyone who has at all related to my story thus far. Last summer, I spent every morning taking long walks in my neighborhood while listening to audiobooks, and I would find myself lost in these stories for hours at a time. Not only did I get to experience the intricacies of characters’ lives without it feeling like schoolwork, but I also developed stronger calf muscles. I know, I’m brilliant.
And now I’m rediscovering my passion for reading. I feel that pull again. That curiosity. That insatiable hunger to learn and to experience what it’s like to be someone else and go through life with a mind different from my own.
My love story with reading may have had a happy ending, but not everyone is as lucky as me. According to the Guardian, researchers have found that 62% of children between the ages of 6-8 said they enjoyed reading, but this number fell significantly to 46% for those between 9 and 11 years of age (Flood, Alison). What went wrong within this short span of time? How does a child’s love for reading dissipate so quickly?
What tends to happen is students lose their love for reading because of the way many schools try to encourage children to read. According to the Washington Post, when reading assignments are quantified or when teachers make students prove that they completed their required reading, many students start to lose their motivation (Strauss, Valerie). For example, when a child is told to read for twenty minutes every night, they tend to read for the required amount of time and then check the task off of their list. In this way, reading has suddenly become a chore instead of an exciting experience.
Making sure that kids maintain their passion for reading will require us to examine how we teach reading in schools and how we introduce books to children outside of school as well. There needs to be less of a focus on meeting reading requirements and more of a focus on creating an environment in which students are actually excited to read. I am beyond grateful that I was able to rediscover my passion for reading, and I only hope that by taking a closer look at the way we teach reading in our schools, we can help more children find and maintain their own love for reading.