I did not read this piece about how teens are not reading anymore, but by the accounts of many people I trust it was a bad article that made bad points. One of those points is “The notion that you should always have a book going—that notion, which all real readers share, doesn’t flourish in many kids.” I was raised with that notion! It’s a fine thing to suggest to a child! But I disagree with a lot here, mainly the idea that there is any such thing as a “real reader,” or if there is, a singular way to be one, but also because Denby my dude do you have any idea how hard reading is?
First you have to have a place to read. You may think sitting up in your favorite chair is a good idea, but there are many obstacles to this. Where do your legs go? Do you have them tucked up underneath you so your hip gets all cramped, or straight out on top of something that starts pressing into your heels? Does your head have a place to rest or do you have to hunch over to see the book in your lap?
Okay then, hotshot, if not the chair then surely laying down on a sofa or your bed is comfy, but oh ho you are wrong! If you’re laying down you have to do the whole move of holding the book over your head so your arms immediately fall asleep and the pages start flapping together, or propping it up on your knees and then curling your chin into your chest in a weird way that makes breathing entirely too noticeable for any pleasure.
Maybe you read on your commute. This is assuming you can find a seat on your form of transportation, or that your wrists are sturdy enough to hold your book open with one hand while holding onto a pole or something else, and that you can time it all well enough to flip pages without falling over. This also possibly requires having enough elbow room to move around, and enough room in front of you to hold the book at a comfortable length away to read.
Don’t even get me started on reading outside. There is wind.
If you even get into a comfortable position, which you won’t, there’s the matter of paying attention to the book in front of you, which is impossible. What if you read something that makes you think of something else and then you’re going through the motion of reading for five pages but eventually realize you’ve been playing out a different scenario in your head the whole time and have to go back? What if it’s one of those awful books that makes you learn a family tree or a map before even beginning and you have to keep flipping to it to make sure you know who is even talking? Or it’s been pages since someone mentioned a character’s name and now you don’t even know what’s going on or why you’re supposed to care about this guy and oh no you flipped the page and there are no paragraph breaks this is a disaster.
(Or hey, Mr. Sir, what if you’re a student, and you spend all day reading textbooks and essays and your own words and when the day is done the only thing you want to do is stare out a window in silence or lose yourself in Snapchat or just put something image-heavy in front of your face because the thought of scanning another sentence makes your eyes feel so heavy they’re going to fall out of your face? Or for that matter what if you’re an adult writer who feels this way?? No, it’s not personal.)