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The Top Three Reasons Why People Read the Books They Read

stack-of-books

I made it my most recent mission to find out the top three reasons people are drawn to read the books they read.  After all, I figured uncovering this information would give me insight as to how I can get my book out there and read by the masses. (Here’s one subtle hint… read Memoirs of an Ordinary Girl: the Middle-ish Ages– nah, subliminal messages are not in the top three, but check it out anyway!)

1) Someone recommended it, perhaps over and over again

2) You read at least one other work by the author and swore you would read everything else this person ever wrote

3) You were just browsing, but the cover and title of the book looked awesome

By the way, I did absolutely no solid data gathering or official research for this, so you are warned, but you’re also thinking, That’s a good list.  Maybe I should see what else she has to say.  She is obviously quite smart and beautiful.  So maybe I added the last part, but keep reading anyway.  My list was carefully constructed by my own experiences as a book nerd and by observations of other people.  I love observing other people… but not in that creepy, restraining order kind of way.  No worries.

Back to number one (by the way, these are in no particular order of importance).  There are many ways a book may be recommended to you.  Perhaps a friend read the book and just knew you would love/relate to it.  The name of the book just kept popping up everywhere you went, on everything you watched and in everything you read, and critics loved it.  Maybe you know or once knew the author and wanted to either be supportive or to find something wrong so you could knock him or her down a peg, finally!  In rarer instances, you may have found yourself forced into it (school assignment or a gun to your head).  But the bottom line is that recommendations do work, so I know I need to work on my marketing with word of mouth or buy a gun.  I’d rather go with the first (and I know some hippie tree hugger is going to find my sense of humor off on the whole gun thing, but then that person really needs to lighten up and go eat some granola).

Number Two.  I know from experience (and all the posts I see on Facebook, which are sure to be good research) that once I read something I love, or sometimes even just like, I suddenly want to read everything that person ever wrote.  Sometimes this leaves me feeling hollow inside and disappointed to the point of tears (I read the entire Twilight series because I was a high school English teacher and I wanted to see what was warping the minds of the girls in my classes, but please don’t tell anyone. I still have nightmares about sparkling vampires), but it’s usually a good investment of time.  And then, of course, a good book series (not Twilight) can pull us in to the point that we’re just not sure what we will do with our lives once we’ve read them all.

And then number three (hold on, let me scroll up to see what I wrote for that).  Ah, yes, the book cover.  “You can’t judge a book by its cover” is a load of poop.  We all know if the cover looks boring we do not want to read the book.  It’s a really nice idea to use for learning to get to know people before we make decisions about them, but there are way too may books out there waiting for me to read them to waste my time reading them all.  If I find myself in a situation where I do not already have the next book I want to read or I’m at my local public library that hardly ever has anything on my want to read list, I browse.  If the cover gets my attention, that’s a good start.  Then if the title is intriguing, I will read the back of the book or the book flap.  If I’m not hooked, I’m not going to read it.

So, there you have it, my not-so-scientific research list of why we read the stuff we read.  If you don’t agree, come up with your own list.

Counting Potatoes

A recent episode of Glee brought back some old memories for me.  Yes, I watch and love Glee.  One of the characters (Ryder Lynn, played by Blake Jenner) confesses that he cannot read, and after some tests, he is informed he actually has dyslexia.  In an emotional scene where he breaks down and shares his feelings about this, he says something that reminded me of when I was a kid.  He mentions how kids are broken into reading groups by levels when they are young and how nobody says anything about it, but everyone knows which groups are the smart kids versus the dumb kids (I paraphrased all of this).

It’s so true.  I was allowed to begin my fantastic school career at the age of four since my birthday fell a day before the cutoff date.  Being younger than everyone else didn’t matter so much later in life, but for the first few years of school, I felt behind in my ability to learn (probably just not mature enough- oddly, I still feel that way now sometimes about the maturity part), and I was placed into the One Potato, Two Potato reading group, with the bilingual kids and the kids who stuttered.  We were the lowest reading group and everyone knew it, especially me.  So, beginning in first grade, I felt I was stupid and I lacked self-confidence.

As an educator I absolutely understand the purpose behind grouping kids this way.  It makes it easier to focus on the needs of each child when they are grouped according to their levels in various subjects; it’s just too bad that these groups are so obvious to others and that kids in these groups begin to feel the labels define them, especially at such a young and developmentally formative age.  However, this doesn’t mean kids cannot overcome the stigma and grow out of these levels and labels.  It takes determination.

I always loved books.  I remember sitting on my mother’s lap, even before I was school-age, while she read nursery rhymes and Golden Books to me.  I remember pulling a stack of books off my bookshelves when my grandmother would visit, and making her read all of them to me.  I even remember when I began to recognize the words,  how I spent time pouring over every book on my bookshelves, and the excitement when a new Disney book would come in the mail each month for a period of my life.  I loved books with a passion that only grew as I grew.  I read myself to sleep quite often, and as I aged, I not only read until I fell asleep (though I fought it by using the one eye at a time method), but when I awoke the next morning, I often picked the book right back up, as long as it wasn’t a school day, because Mom would tell me I was dawdling.  I not only loved the stories, but I loved the way the words were put together to create these stories and the chance to learn new words.

My love of reading transferred into a love of writing and my reading and writing scores on standardized tests were in the above average range, yet I continued to be placed in the lower reading groups for some reason, so I continued to feel stupid.  When I moved to Virginia, I was never tested, nor were any scores taken into account; I was placed in the class that had room for a new kid in the middle of the year, with the kids who didn’t know how to pause at commas and stop at periods when reading aloud. It was so frustrating.  Finally, my freshman English teacher recognized my need to be in an advanced English class.  My self confidence grew and I finally realized I wasn’t stupid and was in fact more talented in that area of my life than any other. Now math was a totally different story…

My point?  Don’t let labels hold you back.  Do what you love with confidence because you never know where it can take you.