Building yourself into a strong reader
People are often surprised when I tell them that I wasn’t always a reader. At school, my library-time would often be spent catching up on sleep, or flipping through the pages of a National Geographic magazine, merely looking at the pictures therein. While many of my contemporaries read voraciously, I couldn’t get myself to ingest these seemingly unending novels and books that intimidated me!
As I grew older though, I realized that people around me were a lot more aware, better informed, and more interesting, engaging conversationalists than I was. When I asked them how – the almost unanimous answer was, reading. With much reluctance, I set out to become a reader; try and finally embrace a habit I had shunned thus far. So how did I do it? What did I read? And how did it change me? These are all answers that transformed me as a person, and could well have the same effect on young learners today.
START OUT small
I found this method working for many people including myself – those fearful of the thought of reading big fat novels, start small. I found in my own case, that collections, anthologies of Short Stories were much more palatable. A short story gives you almost all of the fun and immersive elements of a long-format read – characters, conflict, plot; all in a compressed package that is quick to read, does not seem scary to navigate, and sustains an otherwise impatient reader’s interest. By reading short stories extensively, not only did I get over my ‘fear’ of reading, it also proved to be a great ice-breaker to the world of fiction.
Read What YOU Love
The other strategy to become an avid reader that came in very handy for me personally was to curate the reading experience. It isn’t necessary to read a specific set or type of books. It is a deeply personal choice. So why not read about what one loves. I did the same, and often advice students likewise. Let us say you are not fond of reading but are very passionate about photography. Chances are that if you picked up an autobiography of a photographer you admire, or have heard of, you will enjoy that book, despite not enjoying reading particularly. That’s because at its core is something you love – photography. Pick books on subjects and about people that inherently engage you, and the ‘reading’ part of it will not feel like some burdensome chore any longer.
An INSIGHT Into The SELF
First and foremost, a reading habit is self-reflective. When we read a piece of fiction of non-fiction, we are compelled to form opinions on the characters, the subjects, the various points-of-view. This helps us shape our own self-image. It is an introspective, get-to-know-yourself process that unconsciously takes place. Our leanings, our sensibilities social, political, start to take shape. We become more self-aware, self-assured individuals.
Not everyone has the luxury of traveling the world, meeting and mingling with people from different regions, cultures and countries, of experiencing landscapes and ways of life. Books are the best resource to become aware and expose oneself to a myriad of people, places, cultures, movements. Ultimately, they shape us, our minds into aware, sensitive, well-informed beings that are then capable of developing a well-thought-out, unique, individualistic, and personal perspective about the world and its various issues.
Ultimately, all that knowledge, of the self, and of things external, makes its way into our opinions, and fuels an intellectual awareness and confidence wherein we can present ourselves as interesting and engaging individuals in a variety of personal and professional public-interaction situations. To be a thinking, knowing, and interacting person, it is awareness that tops the priority list, not, unlike popular perception, great language or vocabulary (which anyway is a happy byproduct of reading).
For students today especially, faced with challenges perhaps much more trying than we ever did, it is even more important to be self-aware and world-aware. It is one of the few ways you will be able to distinguish yourself. Building yourself into a strong reader will pay rich dividends.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.