Madelyn Hayes

"A Rocky Relationship with Reading"
College Writing 1, Ms. Therese Jones

Do you remember your first book? Most people remember what they grew up reading. I know I do. Picture it: a new book with crisp pages waiting to be read. Pictures yet to be seen and words yet to be read by this young scholar. A young girl, excited for her new book about her favorite topic ever: sharks! She rushes home from the bookstore, Borders, running to the couch to begin her reading journey with a blanket and her stuffed animal. That little girl was me. I would read all day if I could! Reading was more or less a hobby for me, so long as I got to read what I wanted. Who could have predicted that I would go back and forth with my love of books? Reading should be a challenge designed to be enjoyed, right? Unfortunately, that is not always the case. While reading has always come easy to me, I have had quite the ups and downs on my reading journey.

Most of the first books I remember reading included copious amounts of shark-fact books and large chapter books that kids multiple grades above me were reading. There was a bookshelf full to the brim with those fish books in my bedroom. I had found a love for something because I associated it with a topic I was essentially obsessed with: sharks and the ocean. I grew up traveling to the beach, so I found a love for the water and the animals below the surface. Additionally, I found reading to be of ease, which made me enjoy it that much more. I was told by various teachers that I was “gifted” and “ahead of my grade” in elementary school. I had heard those words all my life, in honesty. I specifically remember being in an advanced reading program from 3rd to 5th grade called LEAP. In this class, my fellow students and I were pushed harder and worked at a faster pace than the rest of my peers. I was introduced to longer novels in this class, such as Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, and the Divergent series. Not only did these novels hold my interest, but they boosted my confidence in reading as well. I felt like the older kids, reading these long books. I asked to go to the library almost every day. Where other kids thought it was cold and dusty in there, I could not wait to get my hands on a different novel! However, I soon became bored with reading as I quickly plateaued and read at the highest level possible. Reading had become almost too easy, and I became bored with it.

Fast-forward to middle school, and my dislike for reading had really begun to set in. At this time in my life, I was assigned summer reading to “keep up with my skills” and “challenge myself in the summer.” Now, what kid wants to do homework in the summer? Who would like reading a boring book when you could be outside in the hot sun or the pool? Not me, I can tell you that! I didn't particularly appreciate being forced to read. My one savior, you could say, was still being able to choose what I wanted to read. I was genuinely getting bored with reading, though, and discovered novels that were written into movies. Instead of picking up a book, I would sit in my basement, and I found watching the movie much more intriguing than sitting and reading words. In movies, the words had come to life! Moreover, I spent the rest of middle school barely reading, doing the bare minimum. This bad habit then carried over into my high school years. It was at this moment that I chose to “boycott” reading and simply not do it. Instead of picking up the old and crusty novels we were instructed to read, I would use Sparknotes to get a basic understanding of a book. I still somehow passed with A’s, yet I was definitely not “getting the most out of those classic novels,” as my English teachers had said infinite times. This was the point in my reading career where I had lost complete interest in reading as I no longer had true freedom to read what interested me.

Nearing the end of my high school career, I had a Senior Project focused on a novel. I had about two months left of school, and I wanted nothing more than to just graduate and move on. I was not thinking of doing yet another project this close to the end. But, as I sat on a Zoom call in my kitchen, I had no choice but to do this project as I was informed that it was required to graduate. In addition, it was worth a significant amount of our grade, so it had to be near perfect. Contrary to my last three years of English, we could choose to write about whatever novel we wanted. So it would make sense for me to Sparknote a random book and call it a day with this project. But no, I had a superb senior year teacher who was a great aid in this project. She recommended that I choose a novel I had already read and reread it. I had not read much during my high school years, so I asked her to choose one for me. She asked what genres I like, and I told her science fiction/dystopian novels were a hit with me. We had finally decided on Lord of the Flies by William Golding. I had “read” this book sophomore year, and by read I mean Sparknotes, so I had a basic idea of the plot. So I read that book from front to back and absolutely fell in love with it. This novel held my interest all the way through! I felt like I was actually there on that idyllic yet savage island. I saw the clear, warm lagoon water, the warm sunsets, the humidity of the jungle, and the sense of edge in each character. I felt at peace for most of the novel, but when things began to go south, I felt like I was right there in the midst of the conflict, like I was directly there and involved. Afterward, I allowed myself to watch the movie and made great connections between the book and film. I enjoyed the novel because I did not feel forced to read it as I had the first time around. Needless to say, I did a fabulous job on my project and had once again found my love for reading.

Even with all of the bumps along the way of my journey, I must say that I have found enjoyment in reading again. Occasionally, I will grab a blanket and go to my favorite place to read, which is my basement with the fireplace burning, and read for about an hour. I have learned that in order to succeed with anything in life, you must be willing to put in time and effort. Nothing is easy, and if it is, it is not challenging enough. Although there is more freedom to read what you want in college, I still do not enjoy assigned reading. However, I do recognize the benefits of reading. I have discovered this on my reading adventure. Not only is it good for the mind, but books allow you to escape from the real world and immerse yourself in a different world. Realizing this can be a journey for some people, like myself. Reading can be a struggle for some: there will be ups and downs and perhaps a rocky relationship, but all readers can find enjoyment in a good book by persevering.

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