If you were like me growing up, you may remember reading a lot. Between classics like “Charlotte’s Web,” or the arguably just-as-classic “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series, reading was a pastime. It was exciting to anticipate the new “Dork Diaries” book that would come to print every holiday season or take on “Percy Jackson” or “Harry Potter.” The entertainment a good story has to offer is what kept me reading when I was young, but in retrospect, I can analyze and appreciate the values that were embedded in the texts.
Perhaps one of the most disappointing things about entering middle school was that I no longer had time to read the books I chose. I no doubt enjoyed most of the books I read for my English classes, but enjoyed annotating less. Annotating required a new attentiveness to reading and constantly reminded me of a future essay, project, or quiz I would have on the text. It became something to dread rather than something to enjoy. Our classes teach us to take a more serious approach to reading, and now, in my fifth year of taking Kingswood Oxford English classes, I appreciate the development of my analytical skills, but along the way, I forgot to be entertained.
Winter break of my freshman year was when I decided to challenge myself to choose a book to read alongside my assignments for my English class. This distinction is what led me to be able to read for entertainment purposes, as well as to keep up with my school reading. At the time, my class was reading “The Catcher in the Rye,” which is by no means an easy text, but it felt to be less of a burden to read since I was not solely expecting entertainment out of it; rather, I was simply searching for elements of the writing to analyze. After making excuses in the past that I simply did not have the time, my screen time proved to me that, in reality, I had about two hours every day to invest into reading. It took the extra push of deleting my social media apps, but it was worthwhile.
The book I started with was Min Jin Lee’s “Pachinko,” a book I had wanted to read since I heard her speak as a part of the 2020-2021 Symposium. It exceeded my expectations and led me to read more of her work. By the end of spring, I had finished reading her debut novel, “Free Food for Millionaires,” completing both 500-page books alongside my schoolwork, something that I had previously deemed impossible. I continued reading throughout the summer and into my sophomore year. Now, as a junior, I have read three books this fall apart from my assigned reading. Throughout this process, I have seen my writing and my ability to analyze assigned reading improve by simply seeking entertainment in books I choose.
It may seem intimidating, but I have some advice to find a place to start. First, introduce the new habit over a break from school, like the Thanksgiving break coming up, with the intent of continuing a book you have already invested time into. Second, choose your book wisely; this could mean rereading one of your childhood favorites or taking on the book you have been eying for a while, but ultimately interest is key. Third, make time for the things you want to do. This applies to most things in our age of endless distractions, but challenge the excuses you make for yourself. Reading for pleasure in high school can seem like a thing of the past, but the lasting effects of a good book will instill in you values to appreciate in the future.