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The Joy of Reading

Joy of Reading, It's not academic

by Cathie Maglio

It’s not just academic

Last week, my colleague Joan Reisman wrote a blog post about the importance of reading in school and on the MCAS. Today I would like to look at reading from a different perspective: reading for sheer joy and pleasure. The idea for this blog post came from the pleasure I get from sitting on my deck with a tall glass of iced tea and getting lost in a good book for hours. My readers may be surprised because I usually write about all things mathematical. Well, today I am stepping outside my professional comfort zone and writing from a personal pleasure zone, the zone of reading.

Many of us were read to as a child, maybe before bed. We loved hearing the same story repeated multiple times. There was something about the book that appealed to us, even as a pre-literate child. When we started attending school, we began learning to read and being able to pick the books we wanted to read. Back in my elementary school days, we had a library in the school. The teacher would march us down to the library and allow us to pick out a book or two.  Usually an assignment followed to write a book report on what we read.  I remember picking out the Laura Ingalls Wilder books.

In junior high (now middle school) I lost the joy of reading when I had to read books assigned by my teachers. Everyone read the same book for class discussions. I remember in 8th grade having to read Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Treasure Island” and hating it!  Then too, with all the homework, there was not much time to read. In high school it was the same thing: the teachers assigned the books. The only book I remember enjoying in high school was John Knowles’s “A Separate Peace.” I have read it multiple times as an adult.

My love of reading did not develop fully until I was in college. I had more time to read then and, more importantly, I could pick the books I wanted to read. I discovered that I loved sagas,  following the same people over time, as well as mysteries and historical fictions. I started to find authors I really liked and I would read all their books.  I still do this today. I follow authors and anticipate the release of their next book. Or I might read a blurb about a book and decide to read it, and then add that new author to my  list if I like the book. I don’t like every book I start. I may put a book down, go on to another, and then come back to the first one. I always have a stack of books in process or waiting to be read.

Reading outside of school helps with reading in the classroom. Any reading improves the skills. We may not like all the books we have to read; however, we can balance them with books we like to read.

Books can take us places we may never go in real life. We can meet people, fictional or historical characters, that feel like friends as we watch their lives unfold. Or we can get lost in a good mystery trying to figure out who did it and why. Books can offer a refuge if we are going through a difficult time. Getting lost in a book may not change the situation but it can take us away from it for a few hours. When we come back to real life, hopefully more relaxed, we might have a  different perspective on things.

I grew up during the Vietnam War. My friend’s mother, Mrs. McKenna, would gather book donations and send them to soldiers overseas. I remember having a neighborhood bake sale to raise money to send the books. I don’t think I really understood why sending soldiers books was important. But I do now. Those soldiers were enduring awful conditions. I’d like to think that the opportunity to get lost in a book allowed them to forget the horrors of war for an hour or two.   

One of the best features of reading is all the different genres there are to pick from. All you need to do is walk into a bookstore like Barnes and Noble or Valley Wild in Littleton or Herridge Books in Wellfleet to see all the possibilities. You can broaden your reading skills as well as your knowledge by exploring different genres. You don’t read a biography the same way you read a mystery novel. Sometimes you need to pause and digest what you just read. I like to read something light and funny like a page turner by Janet Evanovich. Other times, a good mystery or psychological thriller from Jonathan Kellerman will capture my attention.

A good way to read different types of books is to join a book club. I was in one for a while and I read books I would never pick out myself, like “Becoming” by Michelle Obama or “The Alienist” by Caleb Carr. You could form a book club with your friends where each person suggests a book, or join a club at the local library, or join one online. Being part of a group takes you out of your comfort zone and exposes you to other interests and tastes. It can also expand your social circle as you get to interact with new people.

When you’re reading for pleasure, no one can tell you what to read and what not to read. Almost daily now we hear about books being banned in schools and libraries. But when pursuing your own interests and enjoyment, no book is off limits. Some of the banned books are classics that generations have read. Books from earlier eras take us back to times and places when the world was different, when people thought and acted in ways we find strange.  Books like these help us understand where today’s world came from. Books can be banned, but history cannot.  

It doesn’t matter what you read, as long as you find something that captures your interest and opens you to new ideas, or new perspectives on old ones.   


If you are looking for something to read, check out these authors that my colleagues and I at JFY like.

These authors are from many different periods and genres, fiction and nonfiction, poetry, prose and drama.   

  • James Patterson
  • Kristin Hannah
  • Elin Hildebrand
  • William Martin
  • Ken Follet
  • Harper Lee
  • Joanne DeMaio
  • Jonathan Kellerman
  • Robin W. Pearson
  • Ken Follet
  • James Joyce
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Sylvia Plath
  • Robert Caro
  • W.B. Yeats
  • Sarah Bakewell
  • Louis Menard
  • Michael Horn
  • David Driscoll
  • Zadie Smith
  • James Baldwin
  • Langston Hughes
  • Zora Neal
  • Amanda Gorman
  • Gwendolyn Brooks
  • Wallace Stevens
  • Robert Frost
  • Philip Levin
  • Sigmund Freud
  • John Berryman
  • Wm. Shakespeare
  • Anton Chekhov

There are many more authors out there, as many as the stars in the sky. It doesn’t matter who you read, just find something that piques your interest and follow where it leads. If you’re open to all possibilities, you’ll be surprised how far you can go!

Cathie Maglio is a JFYNet Learning Specialist. She is a math teacher by trade and a reader by choice.

Search for Your Next Book Adventure

Other posts authored by Cathie can be found here.

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