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Reading Matters: A plea to Book People everywhere

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Another week, another round of authors and agents and publishing type people telling the world that everything is bad. Our future is doomed because children aren’t reading the right books. Self-publishing is ruining our culture. And anyone who doesn’t have a degree in something that someone else deems important should probably just shut up.

Oh, for heaven’s sake, everyone.

Am I generalizing? Yes. These are a random sample of headlines pulled off The Passive Voice (who also posts good stuff, I’m just talking about the negative to make a point.) This is an almost constant refrain in Book World.

Can we stop? Can we just stop now? All of the writers, traditionally published or self-published. All of the agents. The publishers. The editors and talking heads. The bloggers and journalists.

Dear Book People, can we stop arguing about SHIT THAT DOES NOT MATTER?

The market is going to do what it’s going to do. I don’t control it. You don’t either. Know who else doesn’t? Publishers. Distributors. Book stores.

Know who does control the market? Readers.

So let’s talk about readers. Because the really big thing we often forget is that, beyond all the hand-wringing, I imagine we all got into this business because we really love books! So there should be one thing we can all agree on.

READING MATTERS.

It’s a vitally important part of our emotional, intellectual, and cultural development. It matters. To the individual. To the greater world. The act of reading matters. And the promotion of reading, particularly for children, is one of the single greatest causes we can support.

Everyone. Every single one of us should be focused on this.

13272923_sReading matters.

Because I was a child who read voraciously, I was never bored. I was never lonely. I was never the only kid like me. I could travel anyplace. I could be the hero of the story. I could be brave. I could be afraid, too.

I learned empathy for those who were different than myself. I explored placed that only existed in my imagination. I flew with dragons. I fought with swords.

I won. I lost. I learned.

I learned who I could be if I dreamed. That what I imagined could be made real, if only in my mind. I learned that ordinary could become extraordinary. And maybe “ordinary” didn’t really exist in the first place. Because everyone has a story, whether it’s told or not.

And finally, I learned that maybe it was my job to tell the stories that would touch another person who loved to read. I was one child, but I was every child who reads.

That’s why reading matters.

Because there are a lot of people who don’t have that. They don’t have that much-needed escape. They don’t have that eye-opening relationship with the written word. They don’t have connection with something simultaneously greater than themselves and achingly personal.

If we really care about the book business, then we need to start focusing on that. We need to start focusing on how to make MORE READERS in a world inundated by information. There are videos and games and interactive everything you can imagine. The world of our minds is changing. Stretching. And this should create opportunity. But reading culture as a whole will not grow if we keep fighting about the right or wrong way to do it. This should be a cause greater than petty squabbles.

You want to expand your market?

Make more people fall in love with reading. And let them access it however works best for them. Paperback. E-Book. Audiobook. Web serial. Formats and avenues that haven’t even been imagined yet! Let them get it at libraries. Bookstores. Corner stores. Online stores. Facilitate it. Feed it. Let it run wild and see what happens.

17665598_sWe have no idea what the possibilities are. I want to find out. We should all want to find out. All of us. All the book people. The readers and bloggers and writers and publishers and agents and journalists.

Make people fall in love with reading. Reading matters.

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10 Comments

  1. Yes, yes, and yes! Reading matters. Exposing our children to books from the very youngest ages matters. Getting children excited about books is the best way to encourage a lifelong love of reading.

  2. All. Of. This.
    Whatever the medium, reading is important and valid. Those that invalidate indi-publishers are probably the same people that argue against Graphic Novels. Any medium that gets reading material into the hands of my students is a step closer to building a reader.

  3. Yes, it doesn’t matter what anyone starts out to read. Once you’ve got them hooked, their choices will expand. No one becomes an avid reader by starting out with material they don’t like. Just get them reading!

  4. I couldn’t agree with you more. I think back to how much I have learned about the world and about people through reading. It was through books like Roots by Alex Haley that I honed my sense of justice and empathy – books gave me the language to express myself. Yes, yes! Make people fall in love with reading!

  5. Thank you, Ms. Hunter – you are so right! I hated reading when I was a child. I actually got in trouble in the 4th grade for faking a book report because I adamantly refused to read a book for the assignment. For some reason, not long after, I began reading, of all things, the darned TV Guide (remember those?). Front cover to back cover. I don’t even remember the reasoning. I just remember refusing to read books themselves. My mother thought there was something wrong with that (Why read the TV Guide of all things?? Why not an actual book?). My father, bless him, said not to worry, at least I was reading something. Within a matter of months, I was reading anything and everything. Voraciously! I started turning up at the local library taking out stacks of books and devouring them within a week to two weeks. Such was the turnaround that the librarians didn’t believe at first that I was reading that much. I quickly changed their minds, describing each of the book plots and subjects in great detail. Science, history. Fantasy, swash-buckling, science fiction, you name it! By the time I reached 10th grade, I eagerly began a stint at my local library working as a page. I remember working my way through section after section, author after author, always finding new authors through others that I’d found I liked. I agree with Elizabeth – anyway we can, we need to encourage our youth to READ! It’s truly the best way we can grow both intellectually and spiritually as individuals, imbuing us with an empathy that might not otherwise be found. Thank you, Daddy, for letting me do my thing! It was truly a gift beyond compare.

  6. This is so true. All the junk that you speak against is just a fancy way of hiding insecurity — trying to make themselves feel more important. Whatever. I read, my kids read, and good luck trying to tell us what to read!

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