Reading evokes enthusiasm and aversion


Eva Perez-Greene

Senior Grace Owens-Kurtz reads The Bluest Eye, a book by Toni Morrison for her Gender and Literature English class. “[Reading]’s like when you were a kid, and you played pretend,” she said. “With a book, you can immerse yourself in the world you’ve always wanted.”

What does “reading” bring to mind? For many, it evokes an image of an old, rustic-looking book with fragile pages and a wealth of knowledge. Yet for equally many, it produces a defensive gag-reflex and stressful flashbacks about how terrible that one sophomore year English assignment was.

Students share opinions on reading

Reading is a multifaceted topic at St. Paul Academy and Summit School. Aside from simply liking or disliking reading, students have trouble finding a balance between reading for fun and reading for leisure. Beyond even that, the definition of “reading” itself has evolved to encompass much more than books, confusing students and teachers alike.

“I don’t really like reading,” senior Ellie Klein said. “Every time I read something, I get distracted, and have to read the same line 100 times.” However, Klein noted that she likes reading Buzzfeed because it can make “boring things like the news funny”.

Reasons for disliking reading vary from preferring other forms of entertainment to not having spare time to read. Some students find that the academic pressures of high school detract from their ability to read for enjoyment. “I don’t really dislike reading. It’s just that I have lost my passion for it during high school,” junior Abdulsalan Osman said.

“It’s like when you were a kid, and you played pretend,” senior Grace Owens-Kurtz said. “With a book, you can immerse yourself in the world you’ve always wanted.”

Tackling a thick novel is arduous, but that seemingly impossible task can be as much a haven as a chore. Owens-Kurtz contended that for a book to create a haven, “the author has to create a world” that distracts her from all else. She added that there also have to be at least a few characters for her to root for and identify with.

Sophomore Willa Grinsfelder, another avid reader, agreed that immersion in the world of a story was an important aspect of enjoying reading.“Reading was this whole other world that I could be a part of,” Grinsfelder said.

Grinsfelder elaborated on her immersion in stories by explaining that when she reads, she tries to eliminate the thought of an author.

“I step away from the author,” Grinsfelder explained. “I don’t like to think that someone else wrote the story—I like to think that the story just came into being. To me, an author is a name and nothing else.”

Fitting reading into daily life provides worthy challenge

Even for those who enjoy reading, it can be difficult to strike a balance between SPA’s rigorous curriculum and finding the time to read by oneself.

“Junior year, I barely read any books for fun,” Owens-Kurtz said. “But I wish I had. I think it’d be better to take breaks from the schoolwork to read for fun.”

Conversely, some contend that assigned readings detract from a student’s interest in leisurely reading. “[At SPA] we have such a large homework load that we really have no time for leisurely reading,” Osman said.

Assigned readings that don’t fit the tastes of student readers often make reading seem bleaker than it should.

“I definitely understand that they can be hard for kids to do, but I don’t mind assigned readings,” Grinsfelder said. “It’s school. We do a lot of things that we don’t want to do anyways.”

Altogether, what may bring about the differences in opinion on reading are disparate definitions of reading itself.

Upper school English teacher John Wensman commented on how society’s evolution has changed how he reads.

“I definitely ‘read’ less than I used to. I read more shallowly, and I skim around,” Wensman said. “I would say that I read more, but I read fewer books.”

The meaning of reading is often limited to physical books, but reading itself encompasses far more. Twitter in particular is a major source of very specialized information between discussions, blogs, and articles.

“Twitter is powerful,” Wensman said. “Twitter is huge. There’s no question that it’s reading, but it’s not the same as reading a novel.” The distinction between caring for a physical book and scrolling through Twitter is just as important as reading’s changing definitions.

Despite the fact that we might be moving into a world where information is easily accessed and processed, it’s important to hold onto the idea of intimate relationships with books.

“It’s about caring for the book. If you leave a book in your backpack and forget about it, it gets destroyed! You begin to care more about what the story is because you’re caring about the actual, physical object,” Grinsfelder said.

At it’s core, reading is about engaging with the text and delving into a world that you couldn’t otherwise. “Just pick up something and read it,” Owens-Kurtz said. “It can be entertaining!”