Confession Time: As a kid, I hated reading..

Posted September 4, 2014 by Debby in A Personal Note, Columns / 13 Comments

As I’ve been unemployed for a while now, I’ve had a lot of time to think and lately my thoughts have gravitated towards reminiscing about the past. I figured I might share some of my reading history with you guys because… well because I feel like it. =/ I dunno. So I’m going to make a small confession that not everyone might know about me: I hated reading as a kid.

Now, hold your horses!

Put those tomatoes DOWN. Let me explain… or try to anyway. Let the record show that I started reading Harry Potter when I was 10, so I did read something. But on the whole, I never really wanted to pick up and read a book. It’s sad. My parents were big readers – my mom in particular. She read just about EVERYTHING – her collection alone led to a wall of books in our living room that never ceased to amaze our visitors. My dad read some science fiction and John Grisham-type novels. My sister inherited the reading bug from my mother and at the time was all about the huge fantasy series. And I… I had Harry Potter.

It was greatly upsetting to my mother, I think, that I didn’t really read anything else. In fact, they would keep handing me book after book after book and I would either not read them at all and let them gather dust on my bookshelf, or I would start and somewhere halfway through lose interest. I mean, I even had that with The Princess Diaries. Yeah, they got me the book after I LOVED the movie, but even that I don’t think I ever finished. I would just reread Harry Potter. Like, I have read the first book close to twenty times, I’m not even kidding. I was the nerdy kid who knew EVERY SINGLE DETAIL, including the ratio of Knuts to Sickles to Galleons. No one could beat me at HP trivia.

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But but but whyyyyyy?

What stood in my way was the required reading for school. Honestly, I was a really slow reader, first of all, so it would take me ages to get through a book no matter what. So the amount of books we had to read for school felt HUMONGOUS to me. Worse was that they always gravitated towards the classics and the “serious” reads – the ones that took hours for me to get through and quickly lost my interest (which I ended up not finishing and using SparkNotes for). Especially at that age, I just could not appreciate those books. Having discussions about them where the teacher would extract some piece of meaningful symbolism that I never even noticed? I was rolling my eyes quite a bit, not gonna lie. English was actually consistently my worst subject in school – not for lack of trying, but I just didn’t really get it. (By worst, I mean I got B’s, which was pretty disappointing in my family.)

During the school year, my reading would always be occupied by these books for school that I never really enjoyed, and overall that made reading feel like a chore to me. In my mind, I made the association that all reading was boring, pretty much. Except Harry Potter. Harry Potter was the very rare exception to the rule. Actually, my love went so far that aside from Harry Potter, the only thing I really read of my own volition was Harry Potter fanfiction. Fair enough, I also read manga and fanfiction of manga/anime/video games, but for some reason that still never really convinced me that picking up an actual book would be COOL. Real books were all just so big and time consuming and ehhh.

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There were some books that slipped through the cracks in my defense to reading.

I did keep trying, to be fair. In elementary school, I absolutely devoured the Magic Tree House series by Mary Pope Osbourne. They were short, quick, amusing reads, but they didn’t stick with me for long. I also really loved the Water series by Kara Dalkey, though I have NO idea how that fell into my hands. I read that trilogy multiple times, and they made me fall in love with mermaids. I dunno if I would still like it today – and I do want to re-read it sometime soon, so we’ll see. The Shadow Children series by Margaret Peterson Haddix also had me completely engaged – but with the wait between books, as I was reading them as they were coming out, I quickly lost track of the series. (Life without Goodreads was hard.) And finally, I adored A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket, even though I only started reading it when I was already much older than the target group. I just needed that kind of humor in my life.

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But that was mostly… it. I remember owning The Thief Lord, The Goose Girl, Esperanza Rising, The Secret Garden, and A Wrinkle in Time, but I don’t know if I ever even attempted reading them. I tried to read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings multiple times, but the beginning was too slow and the language was too heavy for me. In spite of my love for the movies, I couldn’t get through them – and that made me feel even more like a failure because all around me I kept hearing that people read those books when they were like 10-13 years old. Even my attempts at 17 didn’t work. Ugh. Around that same time, I started reading Eragon – and I was actually really enjoying it, but I was reading our one copy of the book at the same time as my mom. She quickly got absorbed by it, kind of hogging the book, so I ended up losing interest. Oops.

When did it change?

Obviously, at some point in this story, there has to be some turning point – something that would account for the DRAMATIC difference in who I am today: a total bookworm. And that change, for me, would be The Hunger Games. Yes, at the end of high school, I did read a couple of things (*cough*Twilight*cough*) but nothing that would make me say I LOVED reading. When the movie for The Hunger Games was approaching, and I’d heard enough good things about the books, I finally decided to give those a shot. Yes, it was the beginning of 2012. That’s how long I hated reading. And that did absolutely change everything.

The Hunger Games was pretty much everything I never knew I wanted. It was sci-fi, it had action, the world building was amazing, it had intrigue and mystery, the main character was awesome, and there was that hint of a great romance. But most importantly, the writing was easily digestible and completely engaging. I tore through the series in 3 days, and I wanted more. With the accessibility the internet provides, I easily searched for “books like The Hunger Games” and I had a million and one options – with plenty of reviews to guide me. That’s how I ended up on Goodreads, actually. I realized I loved dystopian fiction – the adult dystopias I read in high school were about the only books I really liked of my required reading – and with the door open to young adult books that were much more my speed… I finally figured it out. Reading is… cool.

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So yeah. I’m the exception to the rule.

Here in book blogger land, I feel alone in my somewhat shameful reading history. Whenever there are introductions or personal posts, people are always talking about how their nose was stuck in a book from age 4 onwards, and I’m just like…. Oops. But the point is I learned. I will take my share of the blame for my apathy towards reading, but I also really wish that the teachers I had would have been more understanding to the needs of a reluctant reader. They really made me put off picking up a book for so long. If we had picked up The Hunger Games, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, or Percy Jackson or something, I truly think that would have made all the difference.

Not all books are boring – I had to learn that on my own. And in that sense young adult and middle grade books really do have value. They fostered my love for reading. And that’s what teachers should hope to accomplish, instead of making sure we cover this old classic with a message buried way down deep that’ll fly completely over the head of a 13-year-old reluctant reader.

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13 responses to “Confession Time: As a kid, I hated reading..

  1. DEBBYYYY I love this post so MUCH. I am that stereotypical blogger in that I have had my nose stuck in a book ever since I learned to read at a freakishly young age, but my brother wasn’t. There were some books he sort of liked as a kid, including Ender’s Game and Harry Potter, but then we hit that point where I was reading ALL TEH THINGS and he was reading nothing.

    And I started to get really into the classics from about age thirteen when I realized Jane Austen was life and I wanted MORE MORE MORE, and I liked the challenge and status of reading big at books written by dead white people, and he was reading nothing. And the books they’d give us in school were dull and dry, and I could read them because my brain was used to it, even if I didn’t necessarily enjoy them, but smart kids like my brother just COULD. NOT. And would not. And it’s such a shame, because like you said, if young adults actually got to read YOUNG ADULT NOVELS, they’d realize reading is FOR FUN and that it can be fun and it’s not all metaphors and adultery and whatnot.

    So yeah, no tomatoes being thrown here (because EW I FUCKING HATE THEM I CAN’T EVEN TYPE THE WORD AGAIN) and thank you for your glorious honesty and <3333. While I never took a break from reading, I did take a break from YA, and THG was the book series that got me firmly back onto this glorious path of gloriously readable books.
    Gillian recently posted Fall into BelzharMy Profile

    • ♥♥♥

      I think that’s the problem. Why couldn’t we read young adult novels in school? Not only do they give readers the brilliant hint that, HEY, reading is also a form of ENTERTAINMENT – it’s like a movie in your head! But you can also have GREAT discussions about some of those books. With themes and character development arcs that are much easier to see and relate to, that should be the first step, really, to getting kids used to reading critically. *cries*

      bahahahahaha YES still tomato free! 🙂 Glad you like the post, I was a bit nervous about writing it but mehhhh this is me, and I’m trying to not be ashamed by it anymore.

  2. Debby, I just adore this post–they’re the type that truly interest me. I love how you described the transformation (& I’ve read HP a crazy amount of times as well! *high five*). I’ve been seeped, dipped into the reading world when I was incredibly young, but the one thing I always hated as having to read school texts. I just don’t understand why they can’t choose books that interest us!
    Jess @myreadingdress recently posted Between #2: Between the Spark and the Burn by April Genevieve TucholkeMy Profile

    • Aww, thank you. I wish teachers would find a balance, you know. Give us SOME relatable young adult titles which get us thinking about character growth and themes that are much more easily digestible, and then work up to classics and show how we can do a similar analysis on those books. At least my teachers skipped that first step, and that made me never appreciate reading – much less understand the value of reading critically.

  3. I had similar experiences with reading. Although I never hated reading, it wasn’t something I did all the time, and I most definitely didn’t always have my nose stuck in a book. Again, I never hated reading, but all that required reading for school, and all the other homework I had, reading for fun just was put way off to the side. I’m also a really slow reader, and I was even slower then, so it would take me so much time to read what was required. It wasn’t until I was in 12th grade that I really got into reading for pleasure again. And then I was addicted and just didn’t stop. I would often have to NOT let myself go to the library during the school year because if I had a fun book, I wouldn’t do my homework.

    I am glad to hear how much you loved Harry Potter, though, especially since you didn’t love reading much. Harry Potter is the BEST!
    Quinn @ Quinn’s Book Nook recently posted Audio Review: The Bridgertons: Happily Ever After by Julia QuinnMy Profile

  4. AHHH, I agree with you so much! I wasn’t an anti-reader, but I definitely didn’t read much. I think I’d picked up the first in the Warriors series (these cat books. Don’t ask. Dark reading history over here) and maybe some historical fiction that my fourth-grade teacher required along with some Nancy Drew. I read smaller books like Junie B. Jones, but I wasn’t really a reader until the summer between fourth and fifth grade when I read Percy Jackson. I don’t know what it was about that series, whether it had been Percy’s snark or just the easy-to-read writing in general, but I just really enjoyed reading after that. Then I started reading The Hunger Games and LOVED it. I bought my first Nook and the lady at Barnes & Noble told me to read Divergent. Read Divergent, loved it, never stopped reading after that.

    The sad part is that I admit that I really enjoyed the historical fiction autobiographies that I had read as a child, hahah. They were very enjoyable to me?!?! If I tried reading them now, I might stab myself in the eyes, but whatever.

    Now a freshman in high school, I read a lot of books 🙂 I have a Kindle and an ever-growing library, and I don’t think I’ll ever stop reading. I may not have read religiously over the summer like I should have (*cough* sorry, not sorry *cough*) but I still, nevertheless, love reading.

    Great post! I apologize for my life story here, hahaha. I started typing and just didn’t stop.
    Tori @ Bookish Affairs recently posted Life of a Blogger: FitnessMy Profile

  5. I feel you 100%, Debby! I wasn’t quite as late a bookish bloomer as you, but before the age of 13, I really only read what school made my read. The two things I did read of my own free will? Trashy magazines like The National Enquirer and subscription-style series that came with stuff like flower seeds and edible paper. In the case of the latter, it was always about the objects. (Mmmmm, that edible paper.)

    Heck, I didn’t even read Harry Potter until I was almost 16! It took CosmoGirl and their excerpt of Vampire Kisses to get me interested in reading when I was 13. When it happened, the floodgates burst open all at once instead of cracking bit by bit like they did for you.

    You ain’t got nothing to feel insecure about, Debby. We may not mention it a lot, but there are plenty of other bloggers like me who haven’t always been bookish. <3

    • Awww thank you Ashleigh <3 Always nice to feel like I'm not alone, haha. It makes me so sad that young adult books were just never on my radar as a kid. And I didn't know how to browse for interesting titles either. I feel like it's all so much easier today.

      (Also magazines with toys, trinkets and bonuses are the shit. I fell for that a lot too, no worries.)

  6. So this is your secret new feature, I like it and I can’t wait to read more confessions!

    About this topic, I am one of those stereotype readers, but there is nothing wrong with being a ‘new reader.’ You are a reader and a book lover now, so you made the right decision at one point in your life, right :p! Haha, there is nothing wrong with your confessions, so no tomatoes. I would never judge someone; I also don’t judge people who still hate reading. It’s up to them, even when I feel sad they can’t appreciate books.

    It’s funny how some books/series suddenly change everything for us 🙂 + I adore the Harry Potter-love in your post. This is time to give my confession: I didn’t want to read HP. I hated the hype. It changed when my aunt and uncle gave me part 3 for my birthday and I’ve been a Potterhead ever since.

    I wish they would give us other things to read at school. It would be better to show young adults that there are good, enjoyable books. I don’t get why they are all only pushing everyone to read literature/classic books. There is so much more out there.
    Mel@thedailyprophecy recently posted Review 285. Amy Zhang – Falling into place.My Profile

    • HA no. This actually is not my new feature 😛 this is just a random post I randomly felt like writing.

      Aww, man, so many people are HP averse just because of the hype and stuff and it’s SO RIDICULOUS. Haha, I just want to yell at them every time. Because no one is immune to that series and can say it’s BAD.

      I think it would be better to give students young adult books because not only is it entertaining, but it’s also relatable. You can have great discussions about the character growth arcs which are much more understandable for teens and can foster a sense of compassion and empathy. It makes me sad that none of my teachers did this.

  7. I did read a fair amount as a kid, but somewhere along junior high or high school I read a lot less because, like you said, required reading sucked a lot of the fun out of it. It took me until a few years out of college when it was actually The Hunger Games that did it for me too. I devoured the trilogy and thought, “I really need to find more stuff like this!” My reading picked up and then I started my blog and it picked up even more. Now I feel like I’m making up for lost time!

    Great post!
    acps927 recently posted Movie Review: CluelessMy Profile

  8. I am going to write about My literary history (thanks to a topic starter from Estella’s Revenge) and I am going to have a similar story to tell. Basically, forced reading turned me away from reading as well. Also, I felt that libraries never carried anything I cared to read when I was young, and I kept wanting the same book over and over, instead of new books.

    I LOVED reading this, and I have to agree with so many of your points that you made. We’re chasing off readers in school. We give out too much homework, and we never give kids any free time for recreational reading.
    Lyn Kaye recently posted Stacking the Shelves #99My Profile

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