Bringing Reading Out into the Community

How community members can support parents and teachers by bringing literature into new contexts.

On September 28, 2018, I wrote a post expanding on my vision of how we might try to create a culture of reading by bringing books into new contexts, thus hopefully sparking conversations about them.  I promised at the end of that post to write a little about  my own experiences “making reading look cool.”  Now, as a disclaimer, I suppose I cannot really know if anyone ever looked at me and thought, “Oh, wow!  She’s so cool!  I want to read just like her!” However, I do know that I have inspired people to read by bringing my own books out into the community–and reading them there.

And, really, that’s the story right there.  I bring books out into public spaces and I read them where people can see me.  Of course, this means that sometimes I have been approached by guys who made me extremely uncomfortable as they variously helped themselves to my bench or followed me down the street while trying to use my book as an opener so they could ask me out.  I’m not here to talk about people like that.  You obviously do not need to inspire them to read.  You can remove yourself and your book to safety with a clear conscience.

The people I want to talk about are the ones you might already have a connection with.  The ones who already know you from some context and respect you and your opinion.  These are the types of people who, when they see you reading, eventually may stop to ask themselves why. “Why is she always reading?  What does she see in it?  Could I maybe do that?” These are the ones we might be able to reach when we show them that reading can be an engaging way to pass the time.

I have already reached two people this way.  I was familiar with both and they saw me reading in my free time.  It took awhile, but eventually both mentioned they saw me reading all the time and then asked about it.  One wondered if reading more could help him reach his academic goals.  The other already read a bit, but thought I might be able to recommend something she would really like.  I didn’t have to do anything special in either case.  All I did was read where they could see me and, because they knew me and were comfortable talking to me and asking me my opinion, they made the first approach.

This is how I think we can try to normalize reading.  We bring books out in the community, we make them accessible, and then we use their presence to begin conversations about reading.  I know that parents are the best ones to model reading to their children.  But the reality is that not all parents like to read or have the time.  And not all children have the best relationship with their parents.  Bringing books out into contexts outside the home helps children see that all types of people enjoy reading.  It helps them find other adults they like, trust, or admire who can also model reading for them.  And it’s not difficult to do at all.

25 thoughts on “Bringing Reading Out into the Community

  1. FranL says:

    I definitely think you’re right. Both of my parents were (and still are!) big readers. Not only did they read to me and make sure I had lots of books around as I learned to read myself, but I also always saw it as something that people did. I always saw it framed as a positive thing. As a teacher, I’ve tried to create an environment in my classroom where reading is seen as something similar. I’ve tried to create a culture in which the students have books at the desk at all times and if/when they finish their work, they know to take out a book and read until we move onto something else. I think a part of doing that is to have books around that kids actually want to read. Sometimes that differs from what we, as adults think they SHOULD read. Last year I was really excited that my school was introducing novel study, but when I saw the books that the kids were given, I was disappointed. There was no thought given to what would be relevant to them, or what they would enjoy. Yes, there were some kids who liked some of the books. But I felt like the curriculum did everything it could to kill that enjoyment by making reading seem like work rather than fun. I did what I could to counteract that. But I think that the problem is systemic. School districts and boards see reading as something that kids HAVE to learn to do. But it’s also something that they should WANT to do. As you say, not all kids have parents who are readers and not all kids have great relationships with their parents. So places in the community like schools and libraries should reinforce that it’s desirable. That it’s fun.

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    • Krysta says:

      In my post, I was really trying to reflect more on bringing reading out into the community, into places where people don’t usually see reading. Of course, it’s important to think about pedagogical goals when assigning books in the classroom. But I wonder if people would respond differently to reading if they saw it happening outside the classroom. That is, in a place where they don’t automatically associate reading with work, even if they’re enjoying what they’ve been assigned. What would happen if reading seemed like a normal activity people did just because they enjoyed it? How can people who are not teachers promote literacy in their community? Because the burden shouldn’t be and can’t be solely on teachers and librarians. I think everyone can contribute, even if it’s doing something as easy and small as simply reading a book on lunch break, a place where people can see us.

      Liked by 1 person

      • FranL says:

        I agree. I suppose that the people who we can expect to do that are teachers and librarians, but it can be anyone. I often see people reading on public transpiration, and it always makes me kind of happy when I do!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Sara @ CRB says:

    Great point! It reminds of of this high school English teacher at an all-boys school who’s a YouTuber and vlogs teacher advice. He actually gets his students to read and enjoy doing so! He puts a lot of it down not just to the fact that he does his best to use some flex money in the budget to get the books they specifically ask to read, but that they get independent reading time to read anything they want at least once a week and he ALWAYS reads a book as well during that time. He models reading and because he’s got a good relationship with his students, they see it’s cool and fun and really get into it. I can’t really think of a time personally that I had anyone outside of fellow bookworm friends approach me while reading in public, but nonetheless I think there’s a lot of validity behind this idea and important to keep in mind for those who want to spread the reading bug!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Krysta says:

      It’s cool he has a vlog! I like the idea of bringing reading outside the classroom and demonstrating to students that, no, he really does love to read. He invests significant time into reading and thinking about what he’s read. He isn’t just pretending to be enthusiastic about books because he’s a teacher and he has to do that in the classroom.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Sara @ CRB says:

        One of my summer discoveries this year was that there’s actually a decent community of teacher vloggers who share tips and advice! It’s really cool! He’s very inspiring for sure and I think that his advice about getting kids to read this way has been my favorite thing he’s talked about, besides just simply building relationships with the students. It’s great to see an English teacher so passionate about promoting reading and not just teaching the classics they have to.

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  3. theorangutanlibrarian says:

    I love this post! It just makes me think about all the times I’ve seen other people reading and been inspired by it (I will admit to looking for titles I might want to read as well on the tube- especially if it’s a book I see a lot 😉 )

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  4. saraletourneau says:

    I bring a book just about everywhere I go! To ice cream stands in the summer, restaurants if I go out to eat alone, train or airplane rides, waiting rooms at the doctor’s office or hairdresser’s… And while I don’t remember whether I’ve drawn attention to the act of reading by doing so, I do it just because I see all of those moments as an opportunity to do something I love, even if it’s just for a couple minutes. But hopefully it’s a positive influence on other people, too!

    Oddly enough, I didn’t grow up in a family that reads very much. My parents listen to audiobooks during long car rides, but I’ve never seen either of them sit down and read a book. My mother’s reason is usually, “I’m too busy.” My brother doesn’t read much, either, partly because he’s not interested. (He’s more of a video / computer gamer.) So I’m kind of the “unusual one” in the family in that way, but I don’t mind. I can thank my teachers for instilling a love of reading in me instead. 🙂

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    • Krysta says:

      Waiting rooms are great places for books! You always end up waiting far longer than you think. I like to carry a book around for just such moments. It’s a great way to find time to read when time seems to be limited.

      Aw, that’s wonderful your teachers had such an influence on you! I bet they would be thrilled to know they really do make a difference!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Grab the Lapels says:

    I almost got turned off by books by my parents. During the summer, they left by brother and me alone. I would read all the time (Sweet Valley Twins). Then they told me to do something else because all I did was read. So I started watching TV. And all I did was watch TV–for years. There are chunks of my life during which I can’t remember reading at all.

    I think the next thing I need to work on is not trying to peek at someone’s book title to see if it’s a “garbage” book. That’s uncool of me.

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    • Krysta says:

      I’ve heard parents complaining their children read too much. Seems like a good problem to have, to me! At least they know where their kids are?

      I keep waiting for the day when I peek at someone’s book and it’s something awesome and not some thriller I’ve never heard of. :b

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  6. Enobong Essien says:

    I think it’s so funny that everyone thinks having their nose glued to a phone is normal but I get looked at like I’m a weirdo when I’m waiting in line and I bring out a book. I will continue to stare at a book and not a phone though and hope to play my part in normalising reading.

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  7. Sammie @ The Writerly Way says:

    I’ve found that people are actually *surprised* when I pull out a book (or even my Kindle) to read in public. I never leave my house without a book and a notebook, so I’m always either writing or reading during downtime. I get approached a lot asking about the book, and I’ve met some cool people that way, bonding over mutual books.

    What’s even more awesome, though, is that I try to always bring a book for my daughter (either in my purse or on my Kindle) to keep her entertained if we have to wait, and I’m astounded by how often people comment on the fact that she sits quietly and reads like, say, at the doctor’s office. I’ve even had older people talk to her while she’s reading, and they’re tickled when she offers to read to them (yes, it’s happened more than once). It’s adorable, and she’s a weirdo extrovert (which I so am not), so I’m glad she gets that sense of community from reading. 🙂

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    • Krysta says:

      I don’t know why reading is so surprising to people! I’d rather read than pretend to be doing something on my phone. Which a lot of people do. I can totally see you’re not actually texting anyone, sir…. XD

      And that seems like a great way to keep your daughter occupied! It’s so sweet she offers to read to people! 😀

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  8. Jackie B @ Death by Tsundoku says:

    Yes! I completely agree. I think it’s most important for people to have physical books when they are reading in public, too. Yes, a Kindle is fine, but people will assume you’re using a tablet and not an e-Reader. In this world of screens, it is always refreshing to see someone carrying around a physical book. Physical books open the conversation for reading more. You can see a cover, a title, an author– these elements all open up the conversation.

    There is a veterinary clinic and Doggy Hotel next to my library. Once a month they host an event at the clinic where kids can come and read to the dogs. It’s super cute to see these children toting their library books next door to read aloud to the dogs. Plus, there are tons of other community members there always hosting something or another. They’re going to dress up some of the dogs for Halloween this month and the readers get to vote on their favorite dog costume. I love this encouragement of reading!

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  9. Wendy @ Falconer's Library says:

    Kids’ sports practices and doctors’ waiting rooms are two great opportunities to read. I always melt a little when I see someone standing at a bus stop reading while they wait!

    Like

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