What happens when you read? Well, quite simply you become a whole new person. Reading lays down pathways, widens vocabulary, enriches understanding, stretches boundaries around imagination, and informs your opinions whether called to the front as a quote or hidden underneath as a hunch.
It is important to read widely, read variety and even read things you may not agree with (the latter can help you develop well-rounded opinion and argue your own point more effectively- think of the way we are able to decry the Indian Act and its consequences since we know that damn thing so well!)
As an author, I can speak/write for days about the importance of books in our world. I can wax poetic (well maybe I can scribble prosaic- I’m no poet) about how we are a better people for having the libraries of all those who have gone before. I believe its why we have been able to make so much progress in the arenas of science and art (to name a few): we have so much knowledge already at our fingertips so that we can move forward instead of rediscovering the same things over and over in different areas of the world at different times. I love that my children have these options. Just last night a few of them were reading about Ancient Egypt and then ran off to build pyramids out of picture books and blocks.
When I am in the middle of a manuscript, I have to be careful what I’m ingesting in terms of my literature. I can always tell who I was reading at the time by looking at the sentence structure and vocabulary of my own work. While unique, the sequence of words you lay down are none the less influenced by way you take in.
Here’s a few tips I can share on how to be a better reader overall:
-Read Slowly: Francine Prose wrote an amazing book ‘Read Like a Writer’ that basically explains that in order to truly appreciate the work, we need to chew slowly and pause often. This is not to say we can’t zip through a lighter piece of fiction as escape now and then, but particularly if you have an interest in writing, take the time and space to examine how the walls and joists are built in order to house the stories and characters you love so much
-Discuss what you’re reading: Find a book club. Blog about it. Or just start really impressive dinner conversation. (Ask my 5 year old how that went when Mommy was knee-deep in Tolstoy) As any professor can tell you, regurgitating back the facts and events can really settle them in your own brain; cement them as your own knowledge and not just something you happened upon in passing.
-Give everything a fair chance: Speaking of Tolstoy… Sometimes things grow on you, sometimes they don’t. But unless you get past page 10, you won’t really know.
That being said, pick your battles and what you are willing to spend your time on. I’m referring now to the Internet and media. Do me a favour? Please DO NOT waste your time reading the ‘reader’ (now there’s a term used loosely) comments below news stories that involve Indigenous people/communities/policies/events. This is a kind of uninformed, grade-school level racist bullying, and your heartfelt responses will be met with the same kind of playground antics- them sticking their fingers in their grimy ears and going “LALALALALALA… I can’t hear you!!” This kind of ignorance is bad for you. It will give you headaches and diarrhea. It will make you stop holding open doors for your fellow Canadians and instead start building a retreat far in the mountains away from civilization (not that there’s anything really wrong with a cabin now and then.)
Do keep informed and up to date. But please do understand that the media is NOT unbiased. They are corporations and are full of opinion and policy direction (Christie Blatchford, anyone?) So get your ‘news’ from a variety of sources and employ all that great reading you’ve done to build strong personal views and ability to filter it.
Now.. go forth and read!