Is Reading Cool?

Is reading cool?

Let me take you back to Grade 6. My class was having a Spelling Bee. Participation was optional. If you wanted to compete, you were to study the words in the textbook. I decided I didn’t want to participate.

The day of the Spelling Bee arrived and everyone who wanted to spell words went to the front of the class. My teacher saw that I didn’t go up and encouraged me to join. So I did.

The winner was going to receive a gift card to a bookstore.

I made it to the Final 2, without studying. We took a break for recess.

The other finalist came up to me at recess and asked if I could just let them win because I “don’t even read books” and they could use the gift card more than I could.

Ha!

I ended up losing the Spelling Bee. I didn’t throw it. I just didn’t spell my word correctly. I wish I could remember what the word was. I’d probably put it on a t-shirt, or make sure I never use it in my daily vocabulary.

Contrary to the belief of my competitor, I did read books. I loved books. I was in the book club at the library every summer. That consisted of me reading books and giving the librarian a synopsis.

I even read the sports section of the newspaper just about every day.

The other day I read the sports section of the newspaper for the first time in months, maybe years. I didn’t enjoy it anymore. The writers felt like they were trying to show off by using adjective after adjective. It felt like I was reading something that had become a chore to them. They didn’t feel connected to their words.

I didn’t publicize my passion for reading back then. Didn’t feel like I had to. I was known as the sports kid. Surely, no kid who wore a sports jersey to school once a week had any patience for books, right?

That always infuriated me, and still does.

Even in university when I majored in Sport Management, I always felt like I was looked at as lesser than someone in science or a “smart” subject.

“Oh what do you do in lecture, look at highlights and talk about stats?” 

And I’ve always felt the need to prove myself, that I’m not just this person obsessed with sports, but I have interests and capabilities beyond that.

You see these Bachelorette recaps I write? I find joy in them and I’m glad there are people who get a laugh out of them. But I’d be lying if I said that’s my only reason for doing them.

A big part of it is me revealing something about myself, that people may not have expected, and forcing others to think twice about the stereotypes they have in their head.

I mean, guys don’t watch The Bachelor. They mustn’t. That’s a girly show. Guys who watch sports definitely don’t watch it. They’re too brain dead to change the channel. 

I don’t like fitting stereotypes. I don’t like being a cliché. I don’t like being pre-determined. I like the unconventional. I like the random. I like doing things that people aren’t expecting. I prefer to be predictably unpredictable.

I could write a blog post tomorrow about two raindrops racing down the window, just to catch you off guard. Of course, I can’t now. But wouldn’t that have been unexpected?

You’ve had some time to think about it, so I’ll ask again.

Is reading cool?

Now, that may be an unfair question. But I want an answer.

Thinking back to elementary school, there were some kids who brought books to school and read them during free periods or recess, but as a whole, reading didn’t seem very popular.

Maybe that’s just kids being kids and having too much energy to focus on books. Or maybe they were like me and read books at home, instead.

Everyone got excited about the Scholastic Book Fair, I know that much. Perhaps it was because of the cheap posters and chance to win a raffle prize.

I was one of those raffle winners. I still have the image in my head of putting my ballot in the box and knowing in that moment that I would win. Just one of those premonitions I’ve had that I’ve written about before.

I won a Spongebob Square Pants poster. I had no use for a poster and I never saw more than five minutes (unwillingly) of Spongebob.

Whoopty-doo.

A lot of people go through school without reading any books outside of the ones they are assigned. I was that way when I got to high school. I didn’t do any outside reading. It felt unnecessary. Excessive, even. I didn’t want to strain myself, right?

When university rolled around, I brought three books with me when I moved into residence in first year. I told myself I would read them when I had spare time. They sat on my bottom shelf and collected dust.

I brought the same three books back for second year and said the same thing.

I brought the same three books back for third year and said the same thing.

I left them at home for fourth year. There was no point. Spare time? I barely had time to sleep.

Somewhere between the end of Grade 8 and the end of university, “reading” turned into a dirty word. I didn’t want to hear it. I’d look at the syllabus and see that I had to read 30+ pages by the next seminar and I’d find every way to avoid it, or get it over with as fast as possible.

There wasn’t much enjoyment. I was sabotaging myself, but it didn’t feel that way. It felt like I was being forced to read something that I didn’t want to read.

I was becoming that Grade 6 stereotype of “you don’t even read”. It was true. I didn’t. I was tired of reading.

I would scroll through Facebook and Twitter, reading poorly written thoughts by people I no longer knew. I would read texts that I’d have to fill in the gaps for. I would proofread my group member’s work and make corrections.

So many words, but nothing was ever perfect.

It wasn’t until I graduated that I regained my desire to read. My desire for learning something, on which I would not be tested. I had lost that somewhere between the late night McDonald’s runs and early morning fire drills.

I enjoy non-fiction books that are sport-related.

The behind-the-scenes aspect of sport has always intrigued me. Reading the words directly from an athlete or broadcaster, helps answer the questions in my head. It feels like a personal connection between myself and the author.

They aren’t telling a story, they are sharing one. There’s a difference.

Think of it this way:

I’m talking to you in a room full of people. Everyone is off chatting with someone else. It’s just us in our own bubble. I’m sharing a story with you, only you. All of a sudden, Johnny Big Ears joins the conversation. Then the story becomes less personal. I hold back on all the details. I paraphrase the parts that Mr. Big Ears missed. I am now telling a story. I’m not sharing one.

And if I’m honest with you, and myself, I’d say that I’ve taken that same philosophy with this blog. It’s so much more meaningful when it feels like I’m talking to one person, rather than multiple.

That’s how I try to write. Sharing, not telling.

Again, is reading cool?

I’ll walk into the bookstore and book it past the Travel section (that was two jokes in six words, keep up), ignore the History and Political Science sections because of covfefe, and find myself in my happy place. The Sports section.

I chuckle when I see that it’s right next to the Humour section. This is my comfort zone. The supposed “dumb people” section of the bookstore.

What can you learn from sports and humour? The intellectuals aren’t rushing to that section. No wonder it’s in the back corner.

One last time, is reading cool? I’ll share my thoughts, first.

The question does not matter. You should’ve been screaming that the first time you saw it. The only thing you should care about being cool is the other side of your pillow. That’s it.

Because what is cool?

It is a word we all associated to a group of kids at school, and chances are, none of them had books in their hands. Am I wrong? Therefore, the ones who did have books were uncool.

Being a “bookworm” is associated with being a “nerd”. And if you’re a nerd, you can’t be cool, right? It goes against the definition.

But why? So what?

Why is it cool to be stupid? Why is it cool for the class clown to disrupt the class? Why is it cool to play sports at recess, but it isn’t cool to read?

Why is butchering the English language on social media so widely accepted? You can type out words faster than you can write them, why do you insist on using abbreviations and shortcuts every chance you get?

Doesn’t it take more effort to spell a word wrong, than to spell it right?

It makes no sense to me. What is this culture of stupidity that we are fostering?

People graduate from college and university every year, and they can take all the fancy photos they want, but deep down, I promise you, most of them can’t put three written sentences together to save their life.

Look, I don’t claim to have all the answers. I don’t claim to have any answers. In fact, I’m not even the biggest reader in my family. If we were to count books, I’d come in last place by a landslide.

Quick shoutout to those of you who own a Kindle.

What I do know, though, is that reading is a nice change of pace.

I’m not forced to reply instantly. I don’t have to like or retweet. I don’t have to adjust the volume. I don’t have to follow anyone or anything, except the words the author has written.

I think that’s cool, even if others do not.

Follow me on Twitter: @CappyTalks

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About Paul

This is the part where I'm supposed to write something interesting about myself and you'll read it and think, "That's not that interesting." So let's not do that and just think about pizza instead, on the count of three. One, two, three. Donuts. Now, wasn't that interesting?
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39 Responses to Is Reading Cool?

  1. rebbit7 says:

    Relate to this so much. Like you, I was an avid reader in primary school. You could say that I was considered a “bookworm/nerd” and didn’t find much pleasure in getting dirty in the sandbox. You’re right about the word “reading” becoming a negative thing in high school and college; I was an English literature major, and I’d have to say that reading so many works (including lots which didn’t interest me at all) sucked the fun out of reading altogether. Unfortunately, even after graduation, I haven’t gotten back to reading for fun, but I hope to set aside some time once in a while to read a physical book (not a huge fan of Kindles). Nice that you have done so now!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      It’s hard, sometimes too much of a hobby you enjoy can remove all the joy from it. I hope you find your desire to read for fun again, though I understand how hard it is to get back to that place again. I’m with you, I prefer a physical book. I get why people prefer their Kindle, but it’s not for me.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Loewe Chan says:

    Reading is cool! I think the stigma surrounding it has disappeared quite a bit with the introduction of big entertainment franchises stemming from books. In fact, I dare to say there is some stigma surrounding not reading (“You only watched the movies, you’ve never read the books?”).

    I think the concept of “cool” in the life of a child is more rooted on the contrast between extroversion and introversion. Extroverted children are perceived as more “cool” simply because they have more friends (or seem like they do, at least). Reading is something you do by yourself, which may cause the image of it being “uncool” (i.e. not social). As with anything, the more people who do something, the more “cool” that thing is.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Paul says:

      You’re right, there is that stereotype around people who only watch the movie without reading the book first. Admittedly, I am that person. At least when it came to Harry Potter. I own all the books but gave up after book 2.
      I almost wish I had thought of the second part of your comment and thrown it in my post. It’s so true.
      Thanks for commenting, Loewe!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Barb Knowles says:

    Okay, this is going to be one of those comments that is longer than your post. Oh! I just saw Harry Potter in your response above this and I have to read that first. Hold on. I’m trying to figure out why you didn’t love Harry Potter unless you don’t like fantasy. Then that would make sense. But back to your post.
    *Let me set the scene* I got to the train station after work to pick up my husband this afternoon 30 minutes early. It’s nice out and I parked in the shade, turned off the air conditioner and rolled down the windows. Trains were coming and going so there were people coming and going too. I knew I wouldn’t be able to comment on your blog sitting there, but I googled you and read it on my phone while I waited. Reading, reading, enjoying, reading, thinking about what you wrote, reading reading and then ” ignore the History and Political Science sections because of covfefe, and find myself in my happy place. The Sports section.”
    I burst out laughing, like guffaw laughing, so loudly that a guy who was walking between his car and mine dropped his coffee on the ground because I scared him. And I tried to keep reading but I couldn’t stop laughing. You know when you try to stop so that makes it even funnier? There were people STARING at me and all of a sudden I realized they thought I was crazy. Oh Paul, the best line ever written in human history. Bigly.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Barb Knowles says:

    Phew. Now to the rest. I actually had trouble relating to some of what you wrote because I was the kid who read during recess, hated being outdoors, and tried to discuss books with other 7-year-olds (that didn’t work out so well for me). Books were my escape. I felt pressure from my parents to stop reading and go outside and play (which will be my next blog post – thanks for sparking the idea). You asked if reading is cool. I was definitely not cool until college. Which was weird. But college was like a reset for me. A do over. And I wasn’t in personal competition with kids who ate glue in 1st grade. I wasn’t cool because I didn’t know how to swim, didn’t have straight A’s, was picked last for teams in gym (I still would be lol but I totally get why). For me, reading wasn’t part of that equation. I was happy that I did something well and reading was it.
    But as to grammar. Are we raising disinterested people? Are we electing people who can’t write or speak properly? The answer is yes. And this is coming out of the mouth of an English teacher. Remind me to read this again so I don’t embarrass myself with errors. I get that texting is easier with lol, btw, wtf etc (ha). But the rest of the sentence should be correct.
    I’ve spent at least the last 10 minutes trying to copy a funny grammar thing onto here and I give up. Just know that it was funny.
    Last thought….you don’t like reading the sports sections anymore because you write better than those writers. I’m serious when I tell you that you should submit articles to sports editors or magazines. You are awesome.
    Oh now one last, last thing. I LOVE that you talk about sharing stories and not telling stories. You do write as if you are speaking just to me, I mean just to one person. I try to do the same. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      I think I’ve sent the wrong message in my post, maybe I need to go back and delete some parts. I didn’t mean that people were deemed not cool because they read books. I don’t know how to explain it. (And now that I got your email maybe I need to delete this part of the comment?) Hahaha
      (Not) Your president cannot pronounce the word “fulfill”. He says “Fo-fill”. Why?
      I think kids nowadays are more disinterested in learning than ever, but I could be wrong. I’m not in a classroom. As a teacher, what do you think about the use of technology in the classroom? Are you all for the use of iPads and things like that?
      You’re write, I was much better than the newspaper writers. They won’t have a job in a few years though. And there won’t be a replacement for them either.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Barb Knowles says:

        But people will read sports in the online newspapers. And the magazines I read are online.
        I’ve been teaching high school for 18 years and I don’t think they are more disinterested. The subject has to be something that interests me. I’m sure if someone were to survey my high school math teachers they would say that they thought I was not intelligent. I just hated math. Yes I use technology for everything. I don’t ever use a printer; we do everything on google. The kids just pull up the page they are working on and share it with me. All tests are on google etc. Teaching is completely different than it was 10 years ago.This conversation is getting too serious.
        I agree with you that it doesn’t matter if reading is cool. It’s hard for me to understand why some/many people don’t like to read. Reading is about escapism, participating in adventures, learning more (hence non-fiction), learning about people, helping to understand good moral judgement. I could go on forever. Some people find that in tv and movies. I like those too, but nothing is as interesting to me as reading.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Paul says:

        This conversation did get too serious lol. I just read an article where parents are wondering if they should avoid exposing their children age 5 and under to digital screens. I’m sitting here, not a parent, screaming “obviously!!!”
        From what I can tell, teachers like the technology in classrooms so I guess I can’t complain. I’ve just seen kids at camp so attached to phones before hitting age 10 and thinking, the last thing they need is more screens at school. But that’s just me. In my last years of university, the professor would ask poll questions and we’d have to sitting there and text our answers in to a phone number and that tracked our participation. I didn’t like it. It was cool, I felt like I was on a game show, but I didn’t like it. It stalled the entire pace of the class.
        The second part of your comment – I agree with all of it.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Barb Knowles says:

    This is a first. I kept trying to send the above comment to you and I kept getting the error message that it had failed. IT WAS TOO LONG! So I erased the part about fo-fill and bigly. I say fu-fill I think. I kept saying it out loud and usually didn’t enunciate the L in the middle. But because I was paying attention to it then I did.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. There you go again, Paul, sharing thoughts plucked straight from my brain. I was so in love with reading when I was younger, and no it wasn’t cool, but I’ve never claimed to be cool. The reason that I stopped reading after high school? I studied English at uni. It was literally me being forced to read that hindered my passion for reading. But it’s okay, because post-uni I’m back, adding more and more books to the “read” pile every week.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      I don’t think I was cool either, but it’s ok, we turned out just fine! I’m glad you’re back into reading what you want to read. I know of a few English majors who had to read so much that they lost the joy in it.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I loved reading passionately as a kid (still love it). I definitely didn’t think I was cool then. Now, I think if there is any coolness in me, it’s because I don’t care about being cool. I love things enthusiastically and unironically (which my computer is telling me isn’t a word, don’t care). Also, on the humor section being the “dumb people” section, I just want to say, that’s like calling part of the gym the couch potato section. There is a ton of intelligence in humor. And so much creativity. I’m working my way through Yes, Please by Amy Poehler. I feel like I’m learning so much.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      Not caring about being cool is definitely cool.
      I agree with you on the humour section. I’m the only one ever back there in sports/humour. I see a bunch of scholarly looking people in history and politics and religion, and wonder when they’re going to join me. They don’t.

      Like

      • A fascinating quote:

        I’m struck by how laughter connects you with people. It’s almost impossible to maintain any kind of distance or any sense of social hierarchy when you’re just howling with laughter. Laughter is a force for democracy. – John Cleese

        Any good recommendations in the humor section?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Paul says:

        Great quote. It’s too bad politicians have such poor sense of humour.

        I haven’t read it yet because I have a bunch of books ahead of it, but The Daily Show: An Oral History looked intriguing when I flipped through it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Agreed. I can’t think of many funny politicians.

        That does sound fascinating. Thank you!

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Squid says:

    “The only thing you should care about being cool is the other side of your pillow. That’s it.” – The best quote of 2017 by Paul 👌👌👌

    Liked by 1 person

  9. micqu says:

    I don’t know if reading is cool, but I was a kid who always read and as a teenager I was the weird outsider of the class no one talked to because I was carrying books and listening to music constantly. I was never considered a nerd, but people kept me at a safe distance. (for whatever reason…) Nowadays, my book shelves are overflowing and just yesterday I ordered a couple more books to read over summer. Oddly enough, I never sat foot in a library! My kids are readers too. At 12, my son is well liked in his class even though he is often seen reading huge. And let me tell you, he is pretty cool 😉
    Like you, I often read non-fiction books (mostly biographies or memoirs). It’s the sharing of a life-story that I like a lot. Reading about real people and real events…
    I really think there is no objective answer to your question, but it doesn’t really matter either. We are all cool in our own ways 🙂 x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul says:

      There’s something about reading about real people and real events that I enjoy so much more. I feel like I get to know a new person on an intimate level by hearing about the things they’ve experience. Can’t get that in fiction.
      Good to hear your kids are readers too! Though I’m sure they didn’t have much of a choice with all of the books around 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Myka says:

    Take 2:
    Reading has always seemed cool to me. Thats probably because I relate it to writing, which I’m sure you’ve gathered, I think is incredible. Any words, really. Talking, writing, reading – they transform a person to somewhere completely different, without them ever taking a step. Y’know? I always wanted to be the reading girl growing up. The cliche. The quiet girl who always carried a book around, minded her own business, ate her sliced apple with granola. But I’m way too obnoxious for that. *humph*When I was in High School, I found an author I loved – and I read 18 of her books in a row. I think she’s still writing them, and I should probably find the local library so I can continue to read them. I remember coming home from school, crawling into bed, and reading these books for 3 to 4 hours, sometimes even 6 or 7 if it wasn’t a “school night.” I remember the characters better than I remember the actual people I went to school with (weird). I feel like I still know them, even 10-12 years later. This is all making me want to find a new series I love. To stop with the commenting, and the pausing, and the listening. To just get lost in another life for a bit. A fictional one. but, until I can get around to finding the library, at least I have your words.
    .xo.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. SamHappi says:

    I literally only read sports books.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I didn’t read your post, I just wanted to comment also because everyone else is doing it so I thought this must be the cool thing to do!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I am and will always be a voracious reader ( I wonder if I spelled that right…) anyways I really don’t care if when I read I am seen as being cool or a nerd simply because of the fact that I find the characters in a fantasy or detective novel more important that the guy on my next desk who can even spell half the words I can speak in a normal English conversation.. It just doesn’t matter in my opinion what a person thinks of me because He won’t be there when I am pulling an all nighter reading this new novel I have taken a liking to or he won’t be there shouting at my job interview telling the interviewers that I was not ‘cool’ in class as I was a nerd who always read books . So yes that’s my opinion and….I love your blog ! I am goimg to sub right away thanks a lot for your sharing aa It has been a long time since I have found someone of the same opinion (pretty much ) as me regarding all this stuff .

    Liked by 2 people

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