Reading has always been a major part of my life. My mother and father love to read, and when I was young, they passed that gift down to me. Even before I could read, I had picture books that taught me to tie my shoes and audiobooks that taught me about phonics. I can’t remember a time I wasn’t immersed in books.
In elementary school, I was in a remedial program which required we read one book per week. On Fridays, we would take tests on what we read. Unlike my peers, I didn’t feel forced to read — I enjoyed it. I loved the time I spent in the library.
I consumed books like I was starving, and they were my only form of nourishment. Every book I read, I felt like I gained something new — an experience, an emotion, a way of thinking. In middle school and high school, I began learning new things through the classics.
When I read the romance novel “Jane Eyre,” I experienced heartache and loss. The dystopian tale “Fahrenheit 451” taught me to think critically and question those in authority.
I loved getting lost in these words, being transported to other worlds that were much different than my own. And I enjoyed the new feelings I experienced from reading — longing, heartache, wanderlust. A book, no matter how good, allowed me to experience a life separate from my own.
As I got older, however, reading became something I did less for pleasure and more for retention. Suddenly, I couldn’t justify getting lost in texts that weren’t for school.
It wasn’t a conscious decision to stop reading. It happened slowly. One day I put down a book I was reading, and I didn’t pick it back up.
At the beginning of 2017, I decided a change was in order. In a year that I’m calling my “year of growth,” I’ve set forth to challenge myself, both academically and personally. My number one resolution is to read 12 books by the end of the year.
I don’t have any rules, except that I have to read each book cover to cover. Class readings don’t count unless I finish the whole book. My hope is that I can once more get lost between pages.
From Jane Austen to Karl Marx, I’m not limiting myself in my reading selections. With each book I consume, I hope to gain knowledge about the world around me and find new depths to who I am and what I think.
Twelve books doesn’t seem that hard to read in a year. Theoretically, I should be able to do a book a month. But reading and understanding are two different concepts.
I won’t allow myself to rush through these books, no matter how long it takes me to finish. I want to make sure I understand fully. And through this experiment, I hope to not only rediscover my love for reading, but also to practice self-care.
When I read, I’m making time for myself. I’m taking a break from my hectic college and work life. I’m allowing myself to breathe. Even if it’s only for a few minutes a day on the subway, before bed or in between classes, I’m giving myself time to rest before I rush off to my next activity.
This year, reading is more than just finishing a book. It’s about finding pieces of myself I didn’t even know existed. It’s about taking the time to discover different perspectives of the world around me. It’s about becoming a better person and returning to the first love I found in my childhood.
Chelsea Williams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.