As part of an effort to improve Creative Writing’s Middle School outreach, the director of Creative Writing, Heather Woodward, had us complete a survey detailing our reading habits in Middle School, as well as the English reading and writing assignments we completed. It seemed to me that I had read very few books, only a few appearing vividly when I tried to recall them. I felt depressed, knowing that I had blasted through shelves of books in elementary school, and it seemed as though I had only read five in the following three years. There were a few factors I immediately knew to have caused this in part: time constraints, re-reading, and the internet. For most kids (in my experience), their parents give them their first cellphone in sixth grade. Before then, our only option for relaxing entertainment was reading books; I was forced into reading by boredom. Then, a new option appears, one that requires a lot less work, and so it makes sense that I’m reading a little less. As for time constraints, we suddenly had real homework, so that made sense, and as for re-reading, if technology wasn’t cutting it, I would fall back to something familiar that didn’t require real participation.
All of this made me re-examine my relationship with reading for entertainment throughout my life, and why it changed. After thinking about it for a few weeks I’ve come to the conclusion that yes, I did read more in Middle School, but the books mattered a lot less. Unlike before, I don’t have to read, it’s harder and more time consuming, and reading of my own volition made the book’s impact more meaningful. As cringey as it sounds, I’ve also been coming to terms with my own identity, and how I was placed in current society, and books were a more personal guide to life. I also began writing in Middle School, which changed the whole game, as reading also became a tool to better my writing skills. Thinking about the stages I had to go through to understand where reading would fit in with my daily life makes me appreciate books more, and even pushed me to lend out books to friends, to share the joy of literature with them. At first I wanted to yell at my younger self to read more books, but I now understand that taking a step back, and realizing why I returned, gave me the value I place on books today.
–Lauren Ainslie Class of 2021