This essay was written by Julie Bates.
Why Share Reading?
Reading is a one person activity – right? Well, that depends.
Sometimes reading can be a wonderful escape from the real world and the tensions that send you seeking a universe far, far away. Other times nothing enriches the experience of a good read than sharing it with another. Good shared reads allow you to share the wonder of exploring alien worlds, compare notes on exotic recipes or decide if the book the media suddenly adores is worth picking up or is exponentially overrated.
It Builds Intimacy
My husband and I read each other’s books. He’s learned to appreciate my eclectic taste in fiction and I appreciate his more scholarly interests. We’ve had some wonderful discussions surrounding the plot of whatever book he has finished after me. Confession here – I read fast, and I tend to stay up late for a good story. He appreciates the need for eight or more hours of snoozing.
We’ve tried exotic foods read about in books and looked up places on the internet. I remember us looking at Turkey’s Hagia Sophia museum online after reading a richly textured description of it in Anne Perry’s The Sheen on the Silk.
You can partially quote a really good line and receive a grin of acknowledgement from your significant other while leaving others baffled. Jokes, inside information, favorite characters become fodder for your moments together.
Good reads promote good dialogue. We’ve discussed the plausibility of whodunnits, physics (which he understood and I didn’t and needed some explanations) and whether or not we would try recipe X. Confession here – I read the cookbooks. He agrees to be a guinea pig as long as I don’t get too weird. He now agrees that kale can be made edible.
Your Children Benefit
Everyone wants their kid to be smart right? Everyone wants that intimate connection that comes from shared moments. Reading builds that seamlessly. From the moment my son was born, my husband and I read to him. We read Dr. Seuss, We read Magic Tree House and the entire Little House on the Prairie Series.
It was the lifesaving component of the nighttime ritual. You know, the one where you say it’s bedtime and your kid replies in that whiny, tired voice, “I’m not sleepy,” initiating bedtime guerrilla warfare.
Plunking a tired, cranky kid in bed doesn’t work. I’ve tried it, got the tee shirt and been back in his room 3 million times because, “I can’t sleep, I need water, it’s dark and I hear a weird noise.” What saved my sanity, such as it existed, were books. Bedtime was when we would pick a book, he would lie in bed and I or my husband would read, usually a chapter or less if he dropped off.
I read to my child until he took the book (Despereaux) out of my hands and said “I want to read it for myself!” He went on to read all the Harry Potter books before fifth grade only to be bummed to discover he could not get AR (Advanced Reader) points, because all but the first volume are considered middle school books. I discovered we could talk about The Lord of the Rings as well as Hatchet.
Even now that he is a teen, we talk books. We don’t always have the same taste. I’m not into Dr. Who, and he doesn’t really enjoy some of the history I read, but we still have wonderful, literate discussions born out of all the books we read together.
Shared reading experience opens your mind
I belong to a reading group. A lot of what is read is philosophy. which is not my area of expertise. Some of these individuals started talking about what these theories meant, and my mind was blown. What seemed simple on the printed page had interpretations that had never occurred to me.
Listening to my friends discuss subjects ranging from physics to religion made me contemplate deeper meanings that I normally wouldn’t have. They made me think rather than blindly accept what was on the page. While I will never be a debater, I have benefited from being exposed to many points of view. Who doesn’t want to expand their mind?
Good books increase friendships
I’ve had lovely discussions about books with people I’ve never met before. One of us would see the other with a book and comment about it and conversation would ensue.
Sometimes I’ve had someone say, “If you like this author, try so-and-so.” Scribbling down the name, I’ve gone to my local library and discovered a brand new read, which I could then share with someone else.
Good books are contagious.
So why share what you’re reading?
If all the reasons I’ve already stated are not enough, think about what it does for you. You have something to share – your opinion. Some reads inspire passion, others curiosity, others are so excruciatingly bad, we never finish, but they all affect us in some way.
Why not share that feeling? Not everyone will want to listen, but someone will. That could be the start of a beautiful relationship.
Julie Bates is a writer and former teacher living in North Carolina. She likes to read anything that is well written, entertaining or thought provoking.
For further reading on making reading a shared activity please consider: Reading and Writing in Relationships: How Partners Encourage Learning and Enjoyment ; How Reading Can Improve Your Love Life.