For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been the type of person who always had a new book to read. I would always find those more interesting to read than whatever class assignments I had with books or short stories. In fact, I still remember being placed in a reading helping class during elementary school because my comprehension towards class readings was surprisingly low compared to the full attention I would give to the books I chose to read by myself. That class, however, was extremely short lived (as I made it a point to prove to the teacher that my reading level wasn’t low at all) and eventually I gravitated towards balancing out school and personal readings to a certain extent; I still definitely found outside of school readings to be more interesting than the ones assigned for class and the library became my new home.

When I entered middle school, my taste in literature went from the basics of children’s books to that of young adult series and I found myself, yet again, dedicating more time to these readings instead of focusing on the reading materials in school. To be honest, I don’t really know why I kept doing that in the first place if I knew that focusing on these books instead of other material would only lower my focus (and grades) towards school. It was at this point I was starting to feel like the readings we had assigned in school just weren’t enough and it was time to step it up a little.

Come high school and I was starting to feel comfortable towards the fact that the readings we had assigned in our English classes were actually different and slightly more fulfilling than those we had to read prior. I actually found myself being drawn to them and, for once, actually analyzing passages. I was so excited and thrilled being able to use this kind of analytical stance towards literature that I even brought that over with my outside of school reading and suddenly my books were marked with notes and underlined passages. This sort of behavior encouraged me even further to take on the “higher level” English courses in my school and I was starting to become even more confident with this new found respect towards in-class literature. Soon enough I found myself literally fan-girling over many books and trying to spring up conversations as much as I could about them. Books taught me many things that school didn’t. Not only did it teach me to be more proficient in my reading and writing skills, but it just opened my mind to a new form of thinking. I felt like I was in my own little world and there was so much more to learn.

However, a new realization hit me when I started talking about these pieces of literature and books with my classmates. I realized that not many people had this positive light towards books in the first place and that there was this sort of stigma against it. Why is that?

The answer was pretty obvious and even now, I still see it amidst my college classes. I think it’s because of how much schools prioritize shoving material down student’s throats to prepare them for exams, it’s just made everyone sort of afraid or disinterested in reading freely. I can’t even remember big instances in which I found myself discussing books we’ve read with any of my friends. If anything, these discussions about in-class literature were always negative as I found myself having to agree that it was all boring to satisfy the conversation.

What can we do to end this stigma against reading? Why do I see so many people turned off by the idea of actually reading books with their free time instead of doing something else they’d rather do? Well, it’s not like we can force anyone to read; forcing material just brings it back to the endless cycle of not wanting to read because someone is telling you to.

I can’t force you to read, but I can only encourage you. I encourage you to read more than you already do for your classes because it enables you to learn more freely. You might even find more insight reading books of your choice instead of what others tell you to read because it’s completely new knowledge. You’re learning on your own and it’s an amazing process and everyone is capable of doing that. It's so convenient to find any reading material, too, as it's readily available at your finger tips on our phones, tablets, and computers.

So dear reader, if you’re itching for more knowledge outside of school but you’re unsure of where to start, then I encourage you to just pick up any book and read.

You never know what you might learn.