In third grade, an author visited my elementary school. At the time I hated reading. Our whole school gathered around him and sat criss-cross-applesauce on the cool tile gym floor. He talked about writing his famous book series and his writing process. Then he challenged us to read and write more so that we could become authors like him, if we wanted to.
Now I am expecting that you think this was my big writing epiphany. By all means it was not. Quite the opposite in fact.
The author had said what my mother and father had told me since I started reading, which was the same thing my teachers had said everyday during reading time.
“Reading books takes you to new worlds.”
The first, second, twentieth, and one hundred seventy sixth time I heard that line I believed it was false and to this day do I still believe so. I insist upon it to this day. Reading books does not take you to new worlds.
Now, anyone who knows me at all knows that I love reading. I am always reading a book if not five or six. I will read anything except for horror or heavy romance. I average about forty-five books a summer. Quite the opposite from my younger self.
But still I insist that reading does not take you to new worlds.
I read We Were Liars and yet I could never feel the sand underneath my toes on the Sinclair family beach.
I read Minders and yet I could never feel the cement streets beneath my feet as I ran.
I read The Great Gatsby and yet I could never feel how tight my feet felt in my shoes on the very hot fateful day.
I read the Shatter Me series and yet I could never feel the Persian rugs on the marble floors.
I read Anne of Green Gables and yet I could never feel the grass in the spring time.
These are just to name a few that even my toes could not tactical touch their worlds. Yet in my own world, I can recall every memory of my toes digging into the sand on summer vacations and of my toes discovering again the grass on my bare feet in the spring time.
I insist that reading does not take you to new worlds, but instead you meet new people.
I read so many books with so many characters and yet they are the ones I can recall swiftly. I can remember exactly when and where I was reading the book. I was grounded in this world, but I was talking and thinking in the manner of the characters in my head.
From the first books that got me hooked on reading A to Z Mysteries and My Side of the Mountain to the novel I just finished two hours ago No Place to Fall, no character is the same just like no person is the same or snowflake.
In books you are able to meet people in so much more of an inmate way than in reality. You know his thoughts, so vulnerable, and his past that is so much more than what is written on his face and clothes. (Pun not intended, of course!) You learn what is his driving passion and weakest downfall through out the two hundred plus pages that a quick five minute conversation could not.
I met a narcoleptic orphan genus boy in The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict that was my favorite when I was younger not because of world he took part in, but because of who he was. I learned about motivations and how people always have reasons behind their actions that may not even be the most logical ones.
I met an aspiring comicbook (sorry graphic novel) artist and writer in The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl that was my favorite a few years ago because of his creativity and passion for superheroes that I formed a connection with. His world was forgettable, but he wasn’t.
I met a talented, tortured, and tormented slave in The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing Traitor to the Nation Volume 1: The Pox Party who taught me about the cruelty of humanity, if I did not already know. I learned what freedom truly meant.
I met a super-powered
broken fighting girl in the Shatter Me series that is my current favorite. I have never connected so deeply with a character, a person, like her before. I have never experienced a writing style like Mafi’s before because writing is truly an experience.
That is another problem with what the author said, “Reading books takes you to new worlds.” I am not taken anywhere. I meet new people and experience new writing styles.
Reading is a journey, from the first glance at the spine of the book to the last punctuation mark. Along the journey you meet friends and quite possibly enemies, but they are people all the same. That’s what they should have said to my little third grader self.