Why do we read? As an elementary school teacher the first thing that comes to mind is, “Good readers set a purpose for reading. Do we read to learn new information? Do we read to be persuaded? Or do we read for entertainment?” – But those three little options leave far too much out of the equation for me as a reader. Reading is just very personal for me – and my purpose for reading is quite simple: I read because I need to.
I learned to read when I was about 3 or 4 years old – my mom, who was my kindergarten and first grade teacher, taught me how to read. I read just about anything I could get my hands for years after that: grammar books, encyclopedias, fairytales, comics… anything at all! Once we moved from the Dominican Republic to New York, I discovered the New York Public Library. My mom took my sisters and me there on a regular basis. It was nothing I’d ever experienced before: so many books! I remember reading Ramona The Pest in Spanish in my bilingual class… and The Mouse and the Motorcycle. I loved reading anything that sparked my imagination.
I still do. Although I do take some time to read newspaper and magazine articles, I’m truly passionate about fiction, of any kind. Picture books, middle grade books, young adult books, and even some grown up books now and then – I live with my head stuck in a book and I love it! I’ve enjoyed sharing the everyday troubles of Freckleface Strawberry and Windy-Pants Patrick with my little students. I love hearing the gasps of my current students as they make their way through The Lightning Thief or Before We Were Free, and currently, Wonder. I admit I have been completely transfixed by young adult fiction for a few months now: Divergent, The Fault in Our Stars, the Legend Trilogy… I’m all over it! And I’ll even admit to having quite the soft spot for “Richard Castle’s” Nikki Heat mystery series.
But why do I read? I read for the pleasure of diving into a world that is not my own. I love living a different life for a while – whether it’s traveling to the past through historical fiction, or into the future to dystopian worlds, or simply looking at the world through a different set of eyes. My thirst for stories goes beyond escapism – it’s a learning experience. Fiction reminds me to practice empathy – to feel for others, to feel through others… or just to feel. My days are packed to the brim with things to do – just like every other fast-paced New Yorker – but reading slows me down. Reading stretches my mind, paints new pictures in my head, and introduces me to characters I wish were real… characters that become real to me.
I read because I feel empty when I’m not reading. I don’t know what to do with myself if I’m not the midst of a story. I find myself searching for a new book, a new author, a new series to follow when I’m done with one. I’ve experienced post-series depression – I didn’t know what to do with myself after Harry Potter… I was homicidal after Divergent… I wait every year for Isabel Allende’s new book. I’m a lover of books – it’s part of who I am and what I do.
Perhaps that’s why I do what I do for a living: I encourage others to read – it’s the most amazing experience and readily available to just about everyone willing to engage in the mental exercise of following an author through the rabbit hole.
I read because it’s fun. I read because it’s liberating. I read… because it gives me wings.