Honestly, I don't care.
No, not entirely true -- telling me I should read something because it's good for me is a turn off.
The New York Times ran a Bookends dialogue asking, Should Literature Be Considered Useful?
And I ask -- why. Why.
As an adult, reading because I want to -- this really pisses me off.
Does everything have to be "useful"? Does everything have to have reason, a point, a higher message?
Listen, it's cool if that is why you read fiction. Or, rather, if that's one of the reasons you read. I think, at different times, we read for different reasons. So that some people are indeed reading for a purpose beyond entertainment, that includes gaining education, information, or enlightenment. That's cool. That's your choice.
But please -- don't frame your choice as being better than mine. Don't frame your choice as meaning that's the only reason to read fiction. Don't frame it as the only way to gain that useful information or education.
I'm afraid that part of the reason literature is looked at as "what can it do for the reader," "what benefit it gives," is that, sadly, is the world we live in - what is valued is not being lost in the book, but the test taken after reading to prove that the message was received and the lesson understood. Reading is literacy and grades, test scores and college applications, jobs and promotions.
Pleasure and enjoyment, escape and relaxation, isn't enough in a world where everything has to be purposeful and achieving and enlightenment.
I actually find I get a bit defensive about it -- like I have to justify reading for fun. That I have to give reasons about how I spend my other time to show my non-reading time is useful and productive enough to prove that I deserve time for fun. I fall into that trap that values the "work" above the "fun." Look at all the hours I worked! Look at all the professional reading I do! Look at all the other things going on in my life! Look at what I already know, that I don't need to read a book to know that "message"! And then I pull back, realizing I'm simply supporting the idea that reading as fun is something that comes in second, has to be earned, isn't good enough.
And I cycle back to my start:
I read for fun. Not for enlightenment, not to be a better person, not to learn about the universal human experience. I read to get scared, I read to fall in love, I read to feel less alone, I read for adventure, I read for so many reasons that all fall under.... because I want to.
And if that's why I read, why shouldn't that be OK for teens and kids?
Oh, I get that just like I have things to read with a purpose for work, they have things they have to read with a purpose for school.
But that's not the only way or reason to read. And, especially outside the school environment, reading for fun, rather than reading "because", should be championed.
It shouldn't be a guilty pleasure.
It should just be ... a pleasure.
Related posts: Libraries - More Than The Common Core
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© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy