Whether it’s for yourself or to read to someone else, reading is a gift.
In the spirit of reading and literature, featured in this week’s cover story, I’m reflecting on my loving, but often shaky relationship with the subject. I had fond memories of learning how to read with my mom. My little sister and I would crawl into bed, not quite ready for sleep, and my mom would sit between us with a stack of books.
We’d sit there reading Dr. Seuss tongue twisters, or stories about a fish with rainbow scales or a hungry caterpillar, and all sorts of fairy tales. Though we grew up learning some English before we came to live in the United States, in retrospect, I think my mom was also learning along with us.
It was this kind of nighttime routine that helped foster a love of reading among my siblings.
But then college opened my eyes to loving something too much. I met Ph.D. students who spent years dissecting three stanzas of John Milton for a dissertation, and people who needed stronger eye prescriptions after staring at Moby Dick for a little too long.
And there were undergrads like me, pulling all-nighters to write an essay on a book we didn’t read. I grew bored trying to decipher English, old or modern. I developed a distaste for writers that college students glorify—Bukowski, Kerouac, Ginsberg, Thompson. I saw what academia did to literature, works that I might have loved.
Then I started volunteering as a conversation facilitator at the Marina Library after college. There I met people with low-level literacy making an effort to understand the world around them, like I had done as a child sitting in bed, waiting for the world of hungry caterpillars and tongue twisters to illuminate my reality. My attendees had a more practical use of English in mind, but not exclusively.
On my last day, one had a stack of colorful children’s books under her arm. I asked her why she wanted to learn English and she replied that she had a grandson and she wanted to read to him.
Whether you’re a Ph.D. student translating Herodotus, a journalist making a deadline or a guardian who just wants to read to the children in your life, reading is indispensable. The reward can be immersion in great works of literature, following the news, being able to recognize words out in the real world, or the simple pleasure of being able to share a story with others.
-Marielle Argueza, staff writer, email@example.com