I’ve always considered myself a reader. I was the kid in high school constantly hiding a novel in my desk and sneaking peaks at it when I was supposed to be doing other schoolwork. If given the choice, I would probably have spent all day, every day reading.
Somewhere along the line that changed though. I had kids . . . then had a few more, and now I almost don’t have time to brush my teeth in the morning let alone spend the day loosing myself in a novel.
When I do read, it’s still packed with mom guilt. Lately all I read are young adult books my kids are reading so that I can follow along with their interests, non-fiction books in an effort to improve myself, or classics that I haven’t read yet or want to reread. Reading a book simply to escape seems so indulgent. It’s like sneaking into the tray of brownies after my kids have gone to bed and eating way more than my fair share.
Setting a Reading Example for Kids
A funny thing happened though. As I’ve read less and less for fun and more because I think it’s good for me, I’ve noticed my kids doing the same thing. They like to read but they don’t love to read. If given the choice between reading for fun and doing, well . . . anything else, the book doesn’t usually stand a chance. Getting them to read anything that I’m not “requiring” them to read for school feels a bit like pulling teeth.
I’ve been making an effort to read more lately though, for a couple of reasons.
- My kids need to see me reading. I want my kids to grow up as readers. I’ve gotten so much pleasure from reading in my life. I want the same for them. Seeing me reading shows them that it’s important to me and makes it more appealing to them.
- I need a fresh perspective. Books, of all genres, help me see the world in a different way.
- My kids need a more relaxed mom.
- I need an outlet. There may not be time for reading but if I don’t make time I’m going to wake up one day and realize that I’ve lost myself.
- I need an escape. My stress level is at an all-time high right now (they don’t lie when they say the first year with twins is rough). My family has had a very rough year and if I’m being completely honest I’m dealing with the effects of PTSD and it has my anxiety level through the roof. Reading books just for fun, just to escape let’s me get out of my own head and relaxes me in a way that TV and movies don’t.
I’m tired. Ten month old twins don’t leave me with a lot of free time. . . or getting a lot of sleep. At night, I often get sucked into TV shows until I’m too tired to even drag myself to bed but I’m realizing that watching TV doesn’t recharge me. They just shut my brain down. Admittedly, sometimes that’s what I need but it doesn’t help build me up or give me any sort of a motivational boost.
I’m constantly making lists of books I want to read and never reading them. I finally snagged a book that’s been on my reading list for far too long for my local library and have been reading it in stollen moments over the last few weeks. I’m a fast reader but my life right now does not leave me with a lot of down time.
I’ve been reading The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller and admittedly it’s not escapist reading but it’s been an interesting read for my geeky English teacher/homeschooling mom self. The book goes through the methods of Ms. Miller (who sounds like an AWESOME teacher. If my kids could be taught by someone like her I’d enroll them in public school so fast their heads would spin). As a former teacher it’s an interesting read to me but it’s appealing to parents in general because it really gets down to the root of why kids (and adults) just aren’t interested in reading.
Best of all, after reading this I feel like she’s given me permission to read for fun. I fully recognize that all my guilt comes from me. But no matter the source, guilt zaps the joy in just about everything. I have felt so much pressure to read to better myself or in an effort to improve the way that I’m teaching my kids that I’ve forgotten that when my kids see me read for fun that teaches them how important reading does in a way nothing else can.
She points out that adults are always trying to push kids towards “better book choices” when they themselves are heading home at night and reading escapist novels just for fun. If our goal is to raise readers, isn’t it important to allow kids (and moms) some choice in their reading material.
In the Book Whisperer, Donalyn shares “The Rights of the Reader” by French author Daniel Pennac. It’s something she shares with her students but it just as easily works for moms.
The Rights of the Reader
- The right to not read.
- The right to skip pages.
- The right to not finish.
- The right to reread.
- The right to read anything.
- The right to escapism.
- The right to read anywhere.
- The right to browse.
- The right to read out loud.
- The right not to defend your tastes.
I’m hanging onto that. I’m going to remember it when I want to read something that serves no practical function in my life. I’m going to remember it when my kids want to reread Harry Potter for the 5th time.
I read all kinds of books as a kid but I hated most of the book selections I had to read at school. Even when I liked the book choice, I’d finish it in a day or two and have to fiddle around with busy work while I waited weeks for the rest of the class to catch up with me. The teacher who did the most for me in high school was actually my senior English teacher who recognized that I was already a reader and allowed me to move on and read my own choice of books as soon as I finished the required reading. That put an end to a habit I’d had through the rest of my high school life — skipping school.
It wasn’t what you think though. Sure I was sneaking out and skipping half my classes but I was leaving school and hanging out at the local public library. I read through half the classics section in an effort to educate myself because I was so bored in my classes.
Most of the reading I’ve done in the past decade has happened while on bedrest with each of my pregnancies. I’m trying to change that though.
I still don’t have any extra time to read right now, but I’m making time for it. I’m cutting out a few of the things that don’t recharge me and making room for the things that do. On my to-do list today: go to the library and pick out a stack of books just because they look fun.