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Friday, April 12, 2024
The Observer

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Cultivating a lifelong habit of reading

My first memories of reading are the sight word cards printed on blue and pink cardstock my first-grade teacher Ms. Barretta gave me during my first week of school. The memories that follow are of the frustration and tears that ensued when I couldn’t read “One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish” by Dr. Seuss while my friends were bragging about how they were reading chapter books. The chapter books in question were “Geronimo Stilton.”

But, I chugged along with those sight words. I practiced at home, in class and with my Mom before bed, and soon enough I graduated from sight words to level-A books. The basket of books labeled A next to the rug was my first-grade heaven. Nothing could be better (except maybe being able to read a chapter book).

Although it took me a little longer to get a hang of the whole reading thing, I quickly fell in love. I would disappear into a fantasy world while the rest of my classmates played during recess. In middle school, I would stay up reading "Percy Jackson" and "The Hunger Games" under my covers with a flashlight. 

Senior year of high school I took AP Literature and we read “Beloved” by Toni Morrison, who has been one of my favorite authors ever since. We also read classics like “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “A Brave New World.” During my freshman year at Notre Dame, I took a British literature university seminar and we were assigned weekly readings from the Norton Anthology, a huge paperback volume that took up my entire dinky dorm desk. I grew to love that huge anthology filled with short stories and poems that we dissected in class. I relished the class-wide discussions that illuminated new interpretations and symbolism that jumped out of the pages. 

Now, as a junior in college, I have less time to read than I would like. Like many college students, I try my best to stay on top of my textbook readings and I struggled through Kant and Aristotle in philosophy, but I can’t say that I particularly enjoyed any of that reading. 

This semester I’m challenging myself to read for five minutes each night before going to bed. Making time to read is hard, especially when you’re tired from studying and doing work all day, but once I actually start reading I remember why I would read for hours nonstop when I was younger. Before I know it, those five minutes I told myself to read have flown past and I’m content to keep reading until I drift off to sleep. 

Reading is one of the most important skills you can learn when you are young and continue to reinforce as you move into different stages of your life. It doesn’t matter what you read, just the act of reading is valuable in itself. Reading is exercise for your brain — it helps you expand your vocabulary, introduces you to new ideas and perspectives, enhances creativity and can help relieve stress. 

The best thing about reading is that I know it will always be there for me. If I have a bad day at school, I know I have a book I can escape to at the end of the day. There may be times in my life when I’m not able to read as much, but I know it will always be waiting there for me when I’m ready to return. No matter how many books I read this year, or if I’m able to finish my Goodreads reading challenge, I know the girl who spent hours perusing the library shelves after school will always be in me and that reading is something I will turn to now and for the rest of my life. 

Another good thing about reading, if you need even more convincing, is that you’ll never run out of things to read. Get a library card at the St. Joe County Library, find a used book sale, check out one of the Little Free Libraries that are popping up all around neighborhoods across the country. Read a graphic novel, a magazine or a poem. While you’re at it, you could even read this newspaper. 

You can contact Caroline at ccolli23@nd.edu.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.