I’ve always been the girl who brings a book with her. It doesn’t matter where I’m going. To the mall with my mom and grandma to shop massive after-Christmas sales. To the pub for cheap wing night with friends. To the mountains for an anniversary weekend away with my husband. I bring a book.
Having a book with you means you’ll have something to read in those moments in life that seem to drag. Sneaking in a few pages while you wait in line at the grocery store or in the waiting room at the dentist’s office – lovely. Or while you sit in the car and wait for your carpool buddy to run back into their house a third time to get their workplace ID badge – perfect.
But there are other reasons to read in public besides filling time and getting through your book a little faster. Reading in public encourages other people, kids and adults, to read.
Reading in public is sharing the joy of reading with the world.
Reading in public allows other people to see not only that you’re reading, but what you’re reading (if you’re reading in print), and that you enjoy reading.
Think about it. How often to you see people sitting with a book on public transit, in a coffee shop, in a pub or restaurant? In a park? In everyday life? Not as often as you would like. Sure, there are many people who read on public transit. There’s always at least a handful of people reading a book on the train or bus. But, how many more are staring at phones, playing mobile games or checking their email? How many are trying to sleep and, in doing so, are awkwardly leaning on the stranger sitting next to them? How many are staring to space?
I’m not knocking any of those other on-transit activities. I’ve done them all (well, except for the sleeping thing, because dang is it uncomfortable when some strange middle-aged an is leaning his entire body-weight onto my shoulder, and pushing me into the tiny old woman on my other side…).
What I am saying, is isn’t it nice to see other people reading?
Every time I see someone reading a book I’ve enjoyed, I smile. I want to make eye-contact with them and say, “I loved that book! I hope you are too.” And every time I see someone reading a book I want to read, I want to know what they think of it and I feel like they are one more person, even if they are a stranger, who is recommending it to me.
Reading in public is actively demonstrating the pleasure you find in reading.
Reading in public is showing folks around you that it is okay to make time for reading for pleasure. Reading in public is showing folks around you that there are people who enjoy reading and do so willingly. It tells the reluctant reader who can’t find a book they enjoy that maybe, just maybe, they might find a book they like too.
Most importantly, reading in public shows the children around you that reading is a great thing to do.
Reading in public shows the children around you, whether you know them or not, that reading is a great thing to do. For some, it is an encouragement, a confirmation of what they already know deep down inside – that reading is common and rad. For others, it is a symbol, a spurring, that maybe they too can become readers. After all, research shows that 73% of American adults read a book last year. Reading isn’t strange. And yet, people often think it is.
Some kids love reading. They go through books like they’re running out of time. I was that kid. But…I was also embarrassed sometimes because of it.
Most of my friends didn’t love books like I did. They wanted to be out playing games and watching movies and shopping. Me? I was happy go lucky to sit in my room with a pile of library books and work my way through each one of them, page by page, all Saturday long. In fifth grade, my elementary school principal gave my mom a photo he took during recess one day. All the other kids were playing red-rover. I was perched on a bench alone, completely absorbed in a novel, with my bookmark pinched between my lips. That was my typical activity. And, I felt weird.
Seeing teenagers and adults get excited about books, reading their weekends away, reading in public – that would have made me feel so much better about myself, so much less weird. Reading in public, lets those little bookworms in our proximity know that they aren’t weird. That they are rad. And that there are other people like them.
There are other kids too, who can benefit from seeing teenagers and adults, like you and me, read in public. These are the kids who don’t like reading. Kids who don’t think reading is fun and don’t understand why anyone would want to do it. Some of them, to be honest, are the kids who made me feel weird when I was their age. But many of them just need to see other people, strangers and the most important people in their lives, their parents, reading. When kids see adults reading books, especially books with fun covers or about a topic that interests them, they are more likely to try reading too.
Reading in public benefits everyone.
Bring your book with you when you’re out and about, not only to fill your moments of waiting, but also, to encourage a culture of reading in your community. Now, I’m off to the pub for wing night. Don’t worry, I’ve got my book!