On Being a Reader, and the Responsibilities Therein

I've laughed out loud over my fair share of click baited listicles titled "101 Things Bookworms find Annoying" -- all of them filled with memes and steeped in popular YA with references to fictional boyfriends and having read the book before the movie. I'm one of the inner circle, the ideal target audience. I'm a doggone librarian, hammit! I am the OG bookworm. I get that these posts stem from a pushback against the long standing popular disdain for the four-eyed, uncool, dork who abstains from the world with her nose in a book. But we're long past those days. Hipsters are in. Nerds are cool. Reading is the new TV. Well, maybe not really, but the point is--readers have a special status now. However, as we know, with great power comes great responsibility and I see this power being abused at the detriment of non-readers more and more.

 Let me elaborate and get back to the listcle issue.

While most of these popular posts take on a "don't judge me for reading YA as an adult" or "its okay to grieve over fictional characters" type of vibe, I scrolled across one recently that was obnoxiously elitist  and at times just down right rude.

The particular meme that caught my eye was a chat-post form meme that ran something like this:

non-bookworm person: It only took me a month this book! it's so big, it has 150 pages! I couldn't put it down!
*image of Hades from Disney Hercules overlayed with text that reads: "how dumb are you, really?"
Notes below the picture read something like: "I can read 600 pages in a weekend/day/hour/minute"

This particular post went so far as to call non-readers Muggles, and that's what made me start thinking here. A fan of Harry Potter will surely know the social class divide depicted between the Pureblood families and the students of Muggle family origin. Families like the Malfoys disparage and look down upon those that they see as lesser, for no other reason that they didn't have magic flowing through their veins for centuries. In her books, Jo Rowling teaches us to accept and love and be kind to those different than us. How is one person's judgement of someone's reading capacity and ability any different from Draco Malfoy snearing at Hermione?

As a children's librarian, I often witness kids being discouraged from reading what they want to read because of their reading level doesn't match their interest level, or vise-versa. I can only imagine that the less self assured and determined of these students would only become burnt out over time and just give up on being a Reader. They would probably say that they don't like reading, or just stop moving forward with reading altogether. These are the people that I picture being the first reader in the above disparaging meme. At some point in their life, the non-reading kid may become a reading adult. That reading adult may discover that they actually do enjoy reading, and maybe they aren't the strongest reader, but by gosh, they are READING. 

As the kid who got interested in Anastasia after the cartoon movie came out, and library requested a biography about her that ended up being almost as big as my head, and was not discouraged from attempting to read it, I consider myself one of the lucky ones. I never really struggled with reading. I was allowed (within the bounds of appropriate maturity level) to read what ever I wanted and I did. Sometimes I attempted books and found them too much for me to handle, so I'd set them aside. Even now, I'm still "currently reading" Anna Karenina, but in slow bits and pieces, because I can't do so much Tolstoy at once. Sometimes I can read eight books in a month because it's January and nothing is going on and we get snowed in at least once. Other times I'm so swamped with work and life because (oh irony of ironies) its Summer Reading season, and I'm working so hard to make sure other people are reading that I can barely read one YA book. Either way, I try not to compare myself to the other readers on my Goodreads feed. If Amy read 130 books last year I'm thinking: WAY TO GO; YOU'RE READING! and if Erin sets a goal to read 25 books this year, guess what!? I'm thinking: WAY TO GO; YOU'RE READING!
The point is, different people have different situations, different stories, and abilities that make their reading experience their own. As bookworms, those that have ability to read more per day/week/month/year/LIFE than others, we are the lucky ones. We get to experience that many more stories in our lifetimes, and we will be (I hope) all the better for it. But as the lucky ones, I believe we have a responsibility to not discourage any other person from experiencing the stories that just might change their lives, even if the stories they come to are only 150 pages long. Reading is reading. Plain and simple.
Go forth and be a reader, and make readers of your friends.
and as always, Don't Forget To Be Awesome.

-Sarah the Library Girl



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