Monday, April 7, 2014

On the Fluidity of Being a Reader

I've got a confession to make: I'm not doing such a great job as a reader right now.

I suppose, in some ways, I have an advantage over other folks stuck in reading ruts because I know the probable cause of mine. I happily spent all of last year reading a ton, in a specialized and critical manner. And I know that I should give myself permission to take a break from reading for a while now that that intense reading year is over.

But the thing is, I don't want to take a break from reading. I love books. I just can't seem to get into them right now, and that's really disappointing for me.

I love reading a great book. I love getting to know the characters, inhabiting the world of the book. I love the surprises, the twists and turns of an excellent plot. I love great language, the conversation between characters. I love reading.

I just can't seem to find the right book for me right now.

Which has given me opportunity to think a bit about the readers' advisory aspects of youth librarianship. Namely, do we give kids space to be struggling as readers? Do we recognize, in the way we do our jobs, that a reading life is fluid? That it's not all the same all the time, with readers and reluctant readers statically on two ends of a spectrum?

Because what my personal reading rut is affirming for me is that if there is a reading spectrum, it's spherical and we each individually move across and around it all the time. Sometimes our preferred genres may very; sometimes we may only want to reread favorites; sometimes we voraciously read anything we can get our hands on; and sometimes we just might not be able to get into anything at all. It's all normal. The reading life is a fluid one.

So while I try to claw my way out of my own reading rut, I'm going to slow down in my readers' advisory interactions with kids to make sure I'm listening to what's happening in their reading lives, and to do everything I can to help them find the right book right when they need it.


  1. I go through 1-2 long reading slumps a year. It used to make me feel a lot of guilt about not keeping up with kidlit, but then I realized I need an opportunity to explore more widely. So I read some trashy magazines and eventually I will come back to reading.

    I agree that those of us who work with kids should be honest about our own reading habits. Sometimes your mind just needs something other than a book for your own health!

  2. Oh, Amy. Forgive yourself. Forgive yourself right this second.

    Since I started my new job, I've been reading nothing but epic fantasy and addictive YA trilogies. You need escape sometimes. Hopefully we're telling our patrons the same thing. I have parents come in from time to time just distraught their high-schooler isn't reading and I'm all, "Are you kidding? He's probably reading so much that it's coming out of his ears when he gets home from school." I know as a teenager, I didn't pick up a book outside of assigned reading unless it was romantic or cheesy scifi. (Thank you Megan McCafferty and Sheri S. Teper.) And I don't know about you, but my life as a librarian is totally comparable to when I was still a student. I read until I go cross-eyed--until it's almost not fun. I love my audiobooks for giving my poor eyes a break.

    Now go cuddle with a sappy tv show or movie or pan of brownies. You've earned it.

  3. It took me a full year after my Newbery year to pick up a fiction book for pleasure. I still read voraciously - magazines, newspapers, non-fiction. But I could not force myself back to kids/tween fiction. I think it was because of the level of dreck as well as reading in genres I was not previously fond of but had to open myself to - it exhausted the pleasure I found in reading. The good news is that it almost all came back when I had time away from the forced pace. I still feel a little of the wound almost twenty years later - reading for pleasure *matters* to me. Being forced, while challenging - was hard. Thanks for your good words to keep in mind as we work with kids!

    1. The hardest thing is that I very truly DO want to be reading and enjoying it right now. I miss it, and it's frustrating that it's so hard to find the right thing right now.


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