Do you remember that ad campaign from the ’80s that traded on the slogan, “Reading is Fun-damental,” as if just by its sheer play on words it could convince people that reading could be fun? I recall at the same time that it wasn’t fun to be associated with reading. At my school it wasn’t easy to be a reader because the cool kids weren’t into it, so us readers would be ridiculed on occasion when caught doing what we loved. But that was okay.
People who know I’m a writer and author often ask what first got me into writing, and my answer is always the same: reading. I think others don’t tend to give reading the credit it definitely deserves. Fundamental means it’s a necessary base for so much else in life. I know that some of my most interesting ideas when it comes to writing, to plot, and to character description and motivation, they come from all of the reading that I do in-between my writing.
So, why is reading not seen as fun? Why do kids continue to berate others for being readers? Who perpetuates this abiding lie that keeps so many people away from something that they might enjoy? I think the idea that sitting down somewhere and doing something that stretches your mind is passe these days. It’s why most of the “intense” television shows that are thought-provoking often get canceled in favor of shows that you could probably watch in your sleep and get the same effect. These days what’s most convenient, what takes the least amount of energy from us, that is what’s celebrated.
But reading, while it takes work, is ultimately fulfilling when it all comes together. I remember my school had a Read-a-thon when I was in sixth grade, and I was so pumped up for it. I was downright giddy, actually, because it meant I got to stay at school overnight and read as much as I possibly could. For me, that was my heaven, and it definitely lived up to the hype. From seven o’clock at night until 9 o’clock in the morning we camped out in the school library, in the kindergarten classroom, and in the first grade classroom, and we rotated every little bit to keep awake. I wish as adults we could do something like that.
When I became a teacher it was so exciting to me to see some teenagers walking the halls with books in front of their faces. I would interrupt them when they tried to walk down the stairs that way, but it was heartening to see how absorbed they were by their books that they couldn’t put them down even long enough to pass from one class to the next. That’s the epitome of fundamental, and it’s good to see the next generation carrying on the tradition.
Sure, no slogan, no slick ad campaign can turn someone into a reader, but there are enough of us out there to make a difference, to share the joy of reading, and to keep the FUN alive for ourselves and for our children.