Learning How to Read, Again

I’m falling in love with reading. Real books made of paper and bound with spines, the body of their collective words actually experiencing the gravitational pull of the earth, an honest weight in my bag, pages making sounds as I turn them. Reading is now a blissful phenomenon, complete, fascinating, screen-free.

This is actually, I’m realizing, the first time ever in my life that I have loved reading. Growing up, I was often told I was a slow reader. Reading was mostly a stress-inducing reality that was just a part of how we learn. I enjoyed the more liberating parts of learning, the researching, asking questions, synthesizing materials, composing essays, sharing ideas, presenting my findings. The reading, I came to see, was like the car carrying me on a cross-country road trip. As long as it got me to the knowledge, what did it matter how I felt along the way?

As it was, I had very strong reading comprehension skills, but the timed tests would always get me. It was such an agonizing pressure to have to hurry up and read it, digest it, analyze it, and then answer all the questions. For many years, even after all the exams and required reading, I still stayed away from very long books. In my mind there was always a script telling me, That’ll take you forever to finish and You read soooooo slow, just pick something shorter.

But what if time isn’t an issue? What if I can just read…to read? Unraveling this new way of situating time is still in its beginning stages. These subtle revelations I’m having are definitely layered and intertwined with the many other discovery spaces being activated by our family learning lab process, and the ever-flowing stream of questions I’ve been softly allowing to disrupt all I think I know about life, learning, and true happiness.

With just the slightest of progressions this unraveling has caused, I’ve found a whole new freedom now, a whole new way to live. The unstructured, time-independent pace of my slow mothering path has illuminated all these delicious, never-before-accessed pockets of reading time! Also, greatly reducing my social media time has made me more receptive to these reading windows. My favorite literary escapades are now in tandem with sunlit afternoon breastfeeding breaks, nursing one or more babies to sleep while returning to the universe of some enthralling story, or essay, or memoir.

I’m reading everything, diving into new stuff, digging up old stuff. I go to the library and check out mountains of books, from children’s literature to black dance history to Indian women’s fiction to science projects to African short stories to parenting resources to midwifery studies to self-directed education philosophies. I go to the library’s online portal, and reserve lists of books that will then be conveniently placed together on a single shelf for me when I return to the library. That grand service alone is pure magic for a mama of little munchkins who doesn’t have time to peruse the stacks for hours. My books are ready and waiting for me. This makes me so happy, every time. Thank you, awesome librarians!

My newfound love is manifesting all over the house. I have little instant reading stations set up everywhere I am likely to land. I even have a stash of audiobooks on deck in the kitchen so I can travel to some other world even when I’m cooking. The munchkins have their books in multiple, micro libraries too. I’ve made it so we can move seamlessly into a storytime whenever, wherever. They can touch, explore, and discuss many titles at any given moment. This is how I imagined it could be, them being simply immersed in the gentle, expansive normalcy of reading, feeling the rush of anticipation and adventure that awaits them on the underside of every cover.

I really love reading now! This is so exciting to me. At last count, I have 44 things checked out on my library card. Oftentimes I come up with any reason to detour to the library whenever we’re walking through our neighborhood—LOVE that I can WALK to the library!—I feel like my mother did when I was a little girl complaining in the car that we had to stop at yet another library. She, like me, when the munchkins are annoyed and growing restless because that promised expedition to the playground now includes this unplanned library stop, would be undeterred and take her sweet time finding more and more books. Today, she still has even more things checked out than I do from several library systems.

I have started more than a dozen different books just this week, and I’m totally okay with being in varying stages of engagement with all of them. Every page, every passage, every sentence, takes me somewhere, and the ride is always so rewarding in a deep and heartfelt way. I’m having fun learning how to read, finally, for myself, for joy. I hope my children find their own joys in reading too. I hope the magic of books, and stories, and other literary delights continues to grow and grow for them, and for all of us.