Recently, it seems that teenagers do less pleasure reading than in the past. I still come across children who have favorite authors or who read and enjoy the latest bestsellers, so they still exist. But they are fewer and farther between.
I see this when I ask students to read a book for class and then watch as they plod through it as if it were the most tedious task they could imagine. If I tell them to read 2 chapters a night, they groan. You would think I was asking them to clean toilets or scrub grout with a toothbrush. And I just don’t get that. As an avid reader, I can’t imagine not spending my last minutes of the day, snuggled in bed, reading by lamplight. I can’t fathom a plane ride and its blessed accompanying silence without also imagining a book, resting on the snack tray next to the salted peanuts. In fact, when I think about my favorite places to truly relax, they all involve books.
The beach; the rocking chairs on my patio; my over-sized, overstuffed chair – all have served as backdrops or comforts as I nestled in with a book in my hand. For me, reading isn’t just following an engaging story or getting lost in beautiful prose, it’s escaping into another world or recognizing myself or the people I know in entirely different characters.
I wish all of my teenagers could feel this way about books. To be honest, they’re not going to get there with some of the classics we insist they read, and this makes me sad. If you’re a teacher and have the power to choose the books you’ll teach, take that power very seriously. If you’re a parent, do everything in your power to lead your children toward books they’ll love. And if you would like to share the titles of books that have changed your life, please, please do.
Some of my favorites:
1. The Great Gatsby, because you never can repeat the past, no matter how hard you try.
2. The Book Thief – when death is the speaker, you’re in for a disturbing ride.
3. The Kite Runner and/or A Thousand Splendid Suns – life in Afghanistan from a boy’s and girl’s perspective (respectively)
4. Angels & Demons – the best argument for science and religion working in tandem that I’ve ever encountered
5. The Bible – read from start to finish instead of in fits and starts, the patterns and themes evolve beautifully and clearly.
What are yours?