I did not like to read growing up. I mean at all. Like really, at all. If I could get out of reading a menu, I would.
Did you know you could take a sabbatical in 6th grade? I didn’t know that at the time, but I took one. About a week in to the school year, I decided I needed a break, so I just stopped working. Initially, there were warnings. Then, there were grade reductions. Then, they started removing privileges.
“But Patrick, you won’t be able to go out for recess.” I’m cool with that.
“But Patrick, you won’t be able to go on the field trip.” Do you know how exciting it is to make maple syrup? I do. It’s not. I’m fine.
The idea of sitting in the classroom counting ceiling tiles was still more interesting than reading any book.
My parents decided to remove privileges at home. “Sorry, Patrick can’t go see ROCKY III. He’s in his room catching up on his homework.” For me, “catching up on homework” meant sharpening pencils as best I could and trying to harpoon fish in my fish tank. (For anyone concerned about harm to animals, I never got close. The pencils would simply float at the top.)
To my parents, my teachers were no longer Mrs. or Mr. They were Barbara and Steve.
But for whatever reason, they all decided that no one wanted me in the 6th grade again, so they passed me onto seventh grade.
If I haven’t made it clear, I hated reading.
My brother graduated from the College of William and Mary. When he was a Freshman, I was a junior in high school, and we went for a visit over Easter. Where he went to college is relevant, because if you’ve ever been to colonial Williamsburg, it’s kind of like going on a sixth grade field trip. Is there an arcade or a pizza place? No, but you can watch a blacksmith make some horseshoes. If that doesn’t set your world on fire, Miss Martha is doing a butter churning workshop. Just go down the brick road, and take a right by the dork in the stocks.
Know what else they had? A bookstore. And it seemed like the most interesting place in town.
I was mindlessly wandering around the store when I picked up The Words of Martin Luther King, Jr. Thumbing through it, I read this.
“I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits. I believe what self-centered men have torn down, other-centered men can build up.”
I was changed. Not just by those specific words, but by the power of words in general. Something woke up inside me. It was the first time I read something that meant something to me. It was the first time I experienced reading as anything other than a chore.
It took a while for me to become what I or anyone else would a call a reader. And things are still relative. My mom was one who would have three or four books going at once and finish them all in a week. I’m not there.
I read a lot for my work, so my goal is to read at least one additional book a month. Even now, I am most excited when I am just a few pages away from finishing a book. That means two things: 1) the feeling of accomplishment of finishing another book, and 2) the excitement of choosing what to read next.
Are you a reader, or is it still a chore for you? Regardless, your assignment this week (should you choose to accept it) is to simply choose a book. Go to an actual library or store if you can. Wander. See what interests you. Pick a book.
It’s a big world out there, and there are so many great stories. Have a recommendation? Leave it in the comments. Need a recommendation? Ask in the comments. We’ll get you squared away.