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I'm Not A Reader...

Think back to a time as a child. Your in class. The teacher sits at the front with the textbook open in uniform with her students. She calls on you to read. Your face flushes warm. If you are brave, or just couldn’t find an excuse fast enough, then you begin reading. Your mind rushes with nervousness so there’s no room to think of an excuse. You start reading. With each word, you try to sound calm & smooth. “Don’t mess up”, you repeat to yourself over and over. The anxiety swells up as a lump in your throat. You try to clear the anxiety away. You stumble the words. Two rows behind you hear classmates snicker. Your ears begin to steam from embarrassment. You stumble again, rushing to the end of the passage to stop the torment of reading aloud.

Reading shame typically begins in the classroom as a child. Unfortunately, it does not end there. It trails behind and becomes shaped into our identity as adults. The phrase then becomes “I’m not a reader”. But is that really the case? Or have your experiences just steered you away from reading.

There are several ways we build up this identity of being a nonreader. The first being, the negative experiences of reading to classmates or peers. At such a young age, fragile egos quickly can shatter with disapproval or ridicule. The second is reading levels amongst peers. It is always very clear to children who are in the hierarchy and who are being forced to keep up. Lastly, time-limited readings. The teacher gives you three minutes to read two paragraphs, but you are either so preoccupied with finishing in time or you are stuck on a word. Either the case you are barely finishing, and definitely not absorbing what you are reading.

Now it is possible that none of this relates to you. But if it does and you have gotten this far in the text please know that you are a reader. Regardless of whether you are reading instructions, the funny bumper sticker you just drove past, or a Hurston novel. Disconnect from the assumption that 1. You have to be on the same level of reading fluidity as others or you are not a reader or smart enough to be a reader. 2. Reading is an identity. Once that assumption is dismantled the ease of reading will be more natural. 3. Reading is done at your pace. You are reading for yourself. Not the teacher and class around you anymore. Perfection is not a concern when reading for self.

“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” – Fredrick Douglass

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