There aren't many things I wish I could bring back from middle school, but if there was one thing, it would be mandatory reading logs.
I know, I know, call me crazy but it's true.
In seventh grade, I remember what a chore recording that I had read for at least 30 minutes felt like. I am sure those flimsy logs that I used as a bookmark probably caused me stress dreams at the time, but now what I would give to have those back and be able to read for pleasure during the school year.
As everyone progresses through middle school, mandatory reading evolves. In high school, no longer are you picking up a book willy-nilly and recording that you've read for a certain amount of time. There are assigned books that you trudge your way through, figuring out the ins and outs of literary analysis. The books get more complex, and dense, and are probably not ones that you would pick up to read for pleasure.
Looking back on those books I read in high school, the one saving grace of them was that they were mainly novels or fiction as now that I am in college the classes I am taking no longer have reading lists that are comprised of non-fiction or journal articles.
All this to say, I have not stopped reading as I have progressed through school, it is that the readings have gotten increasingly more complex, dense and academic. This past semester I had the weekly assignment of reading a chapter out of Black Feminist Thought a complete work of sociological theory. I had to reserve at least an hour and a half to get through one chapter of it. After finishing that chapter, the last thing I wanted to do was pick up another book and read some more, even if it was for pleasure.
As the semester went on and summer drew near I began craving the need to read for pure pleasure and entertainment. I started creating a list of books I wanted to read, my whole birthday list was comprised of all books, much to the surprise of my mom.
Now that the midpoint of summer is hitting, I have been able to fulfill my goal of reading a lot and it is the most satisfying thing. I feel like I have been bingeing on books as opposed to Netflix, getting completely engrossed in a book and just wanting to find out what happens next.
Having the time to read has renewed my love for books and makes me want to truly dedicate time to reading for pleasure during the school year so I don't have these long stretches of going without reading for fun and then only get small snippets of time during breaks to get through a few books.
It is also important to continue to read for pleasure. I recently came across this infographic of how little people continue to read past high school.
For so long I have taken a love of reading for granted and never would have imagined that so few people would refuse to pick up another book once they graduate and are no longer assigned with required reading.
By reading past high school and college we can continue to expand our knowledge and learn new things. Who knows what society would look like and how it would improve if we all kept reading, be it novels, non-fiction, biographies, the list could go on.
Reading also passes along great habits to the next generation. Throughout high school and now in college, as my schedule allows I have tutored elementary school kids in reading. For so many of the kids I work with, their literacy would be in a much different spot if they had been read to regularly before they started school. I have seen multiple first and even second graders who still struggle with their alphabets. If the adults in their lives would have taken the time to expose them to books, these students would not be struggling nearly as much as they are.
But even as the kids get back on track and are getting excited about reading, they face boundaries still at home if the adults around them aren't engaged in reading. These students I have worked with want an audience to show off their reading skills to, but if there isn't an adult who will take the time to listen then the students' skills go unused and decline.
Yet another reason to emphasize reading during the summer at all ages, to keep the brain working and using the skills involved in reading mechanics but also comprehension.
So log out of Netflix, pull up Amazon on a new tab and find a book, or better yet go find your nearest library or local bookstore (surprise, those still exist) and pick up something to read.
If reading a book cover to cover seems like a daunting task, start somewhere small, like reading online articles. But don't just count BuzzFeed articles as reading, go to the New York Times, The Guardian, and other reputable sources that have in-depth articles on a whole host of interesting subjects written in a variety of ways.
The pleasure, knowledge, and satisfaction you get from reading just for fun may surprise you.
So, you must excuse me know, there is a book I need to get back to.