learning to read

(Calm down grandmas. It’s not Baby-tidian that’s learning to read.)

I was one of those kids who stayed up till 2 in the morning. I wasn’t talking on the phone or sneaking into places I shouldn’t be, but ever the nerd, I was reading. I read anything and everything that would fit between two covers. Through all of middle school and most of high school, I could lose whole weekends to a book. I’d start a new book on the Friday bus ride home and the next time I looked up it was the wee hours of Monday morning. Since my wise parents pretended not to notice the slit of light coming from under my door at all hours, I never had to resort to the flashlight under a blanket cover.

The only thing I (mildly) regret about all that time spent turning pages is that I consumed mostly pop culture lit. You know the type: multi-book family sagas that begin on the Mayflower and end in the California gold rush, or books detailing the myriad trials of teenagers, be they twins, babysitters, or orphans. I haven’t read as many  classic literature books as I often pretend to. So instead of those late night reading sessions contributing to a rhythmically beating literary heart, I’m left with vague palpatations of plot twists and character descriptions. For example, on a shelf somewhere is a book about a girl trapped in a basement. Whether by friend or foe, for what reason, for how long, I’ll never remember. She types out her memories of adolescent angst on the random typewriter locked in with her. There is also a book about a boy who is able to time travel to the past where he meets his doppelganger who has typhoid, or perhaps tuberculosis. It may or may not involve being stuck in a library.

Anyway, the point I was wanting to make is that in the past I spent hours and hours reading. I read like I napped; if it didn’t last at least 2 hours, it wasn’t worth it. While I still routinely take hours long naps with Babytidian, I’ve had to give up such lingering over pages. As part of my preparation for giving birth, I compiled a rather ambitious list of books I’d like to read. The first few weeks I had a stack teetering next to the bed (right next to the midnight nursing snacks and water). Now I’m lucky if I get all my email read each day. For longer than I ‘d care to admit, I gave up book reading altogether. I subsisted on blogs, Netflix, and Hulu. It was just easier. I could still listen to the dialogue even if Babytidian took my attention away from the screen. (Try as I might, I just couldn’t keep reading if I wasn’t looking at the page.) But I felt mentally bloated and weak.

Slowly, I’ve been relearning how to read. In small bits.

And pieces.


And there.

While I do sorely miss the days when I would only budge from my comfy chair to make trips to the kitchen and the bathroom, I’m beginning to enjoy reading this way. Instead of sprinting through a book and barely catching my breath before opening the next, I am forced to mosey through the pages, letting each paragraph dissolve on my mind like a lozenge. Perhaps I should take up poetry reading…

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Posted in Uncategorized 10 years, 8 months ago at 5:59 pm.


2 Replies

  1. Rachelle Mar 25th 2012

    “Try as I might, I just couldn’t keep reading if I wasn’t looking at the page.” Damn books!

    I used to come home from school and read in my bean bag until my mom called me for supper and I would try to walk downstairs on legs that had fallen asleep. But like you, I didn’t read much of worth between the Little House on the Prairie books in kindergarten (and again several times after) and discovering C. S. Lewis’ nonfiction and the Lord of the Rings in high school. A lot of Christian juvenile historical fiction. But like Lewis says somewhere, “a boy who loves bad books may grow up to love good books.”

    It’s hard to live in another world for a couple days when you have responsibilities in this one, and also the last few novels I’ve tried just haven’t grabbed me in that way. I also need to learn how to read in smaller bites.

  2. Erin W. Mar 29th 2012

    Jana, I’ve only just begun reading again after a nine-month post-graduate hiatus. As a student I never had to seek out captivating work–discovering new books through my favorite teachers was part & parcel of my degree–and I faltered when I realized it would no longer fall into my lap. I would have to seek it out: something I wasn’t prepared to do between full-time work, graduate applications, and the stress of moving. So I’ve been relearning, too, the habit of reading. It couldn’t happen until I had adequate purpose: I did a lot of research, identified some authors and themes that I could get excited about, and turned my library trip into a big to-do. I wanted effortless reading that would stand up to a fractured commute, preferably featuring female perspectives and American landscapes. Willa Cather ended up coming home with me, and I was so pleased with the first novel that I’m now on my third. I also keep Orion magazine on my bedside table–it requires more intellectual and emotional investment than Cather’s realism, but is perfect for times when I want to feel the satisfying heft of reading in a limited time span.

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