I Got The Message Loud & Clear: Reading Isn’t Cool.

Mostly my family and friends are very supportive of my love for reading even if they don’t altogether get it. As a child I was just as much of a voracious reader but honestly there’s always been this underlying “poking fun” with some of my extended family and it just makes me cringe when I think of it.

Even today as an adult I get these comments from them “reminiscing” about my childhood reading tendencies and while, I’m not super upset by them, they just get under my skin. As a kid, they made me feel bad too. And that makes me sad because why should a kid feel bad about reading??

There was, even now, these comments about how I was the lazy one out of my sister and I because I would rather sit and read.

And I just think there is something wrong with making a kid feel like they are lazy because their hobby of choice happens to be one that includes sitting (I mean, yes sure my butt hurts from all sitting I do while reading). I played outside and was VERY active as a kid but I always had a book with me no matter where I went as I do now (especially when I had to visit their homes) and would prefer reading to anything. But just because I was reading was not because I am lazy. There were many times where I felt like I should be “more active” like my sister because of their comments and I felt this shame that, because I liked reading, I must be lazy. I was at my baby sister’s graduation two years ago and one of them was telling Will ALL about how they could never get me up to bake cookies with them like my sister would because I was soooo lazy and would just sit there with my book. Insert questions if I’m still just as lazy. (Spoiler alert: I AM AND I LOVE IT. IF YOU CALL IT LAZY, I DON’T CARE).

There were so many comments about how I was “quiet as a mouse” with my nose in a book all the time and the way they said it it never sounded like a good thing in comparison to how my sister was.

This would happen when they were talking to their Bingo friends or introducing me to someone. “Oh this one you’d never know she’s there because she’s always reading.” “She’s so shy and quiet” or if I was reading after a long visit at my grandma’s house I would hear comments about how I should be more social LIKE MY SISTER. It always made me feel like I was this strange mutant. Also, it’s a big pet peeve of mine to assume because I like to read that I am automatically socially awkward or quiet. I AM QUIET BECAUSE I AM READING. Even as an adult I think they still assume I’m this quiet little mouse which couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve never been that. It always made me feel like I was not as fun as my sister.

“If you are that bored I can find you something to do”

I AM NOT READING BECAUSE I AM BORED, PEOPLE. I do not need a hobby as they always would try to suggest.

“She’s in her own world.”

Nah. I can hear you talking about me. But really this world I’m in right now is better than the one where I have to listen to you talk about your Bingo drama or talk about what a bump on a log I am because I like reading more than I like watching your soap operas.

These are just a few of the comments I would get frequently. I’m sure my extended family wasn’t TRYING to be cruel or anything but even now they speak about me in a way that I don’t like and as a kid it made me feel really bad about myself. Like I should be ashamed to be a reader because it was lazy or because I wasn’t as FUN and SOCIAL as my sister (which was not at ALL true). It stuck with me when I became a pre-teen (which is what I think was part of this HUGE gap of my reading history) because I thought boys wouldn’t like me if I was bookish and that people would think I was a “loser” for liking books. Being a bookworm wasn’t something that sounded very cool to my extended family so it probably wouldn’t be very cool to all the boys I was trying to chase and the new friends I wanted to make.

Being a bookworm held such negative connotations and even more so in middle school and high school where so many kids would proclaim how boring and uncool they thought reading was. So I stuffed that part of myself down very far for a long time and it took until the end of high school for me to start being open about it again. But even then I was all “Oh I read Jack Kerouac and Sylvia Plath (which I truly loved) but it made me feel like I was COOL and INSIGHTFUL in a way that admitting I read the latest Nicholas Sparks wouldn’t.

I got the message loud and clear: READING WASN’T COOL. And that makes me sad that so many kids end up thinking that. Hiding their love for reading like it’s a dirty little secret. Like being a bookworm means something it doesn’t. That’s the beauty about being part of the online reading community…you see we bookworms come in MANY MANY varieties. We don’t all share the same characteristics. Being a reader does not mean you are ONE CERTAIN WAY. Being a reader isn’t something to be ashamed of it and I’m not quite sure how it ever got to be looked upon in that way.

I love being a reader and I am proud of it being a part of who I am!

Let’s talk: Has anybody in your life ever made you feel bad about being a reader? When you were younger did you get the message that reading wasn’t “cool”? Did it impact you?
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About Jamie

Jamie is a 28 year old married lady who is in denial that she's actually that old. When she's not reading you can find her doing Pilates followed by eating gelato, listening to music with oversized headphones and teaching her niece how to be as awesome as she is.

Comments

  1. Yes, yes, yes, a million yeses!

    My parents were relatively supportive, (though I got a lot of flack for reading “too fast” and “wasting money” because I didn’t take enough time with books?) but my aunts and uncles? You’d think my hobby was flaying chickens or something.

    I got a lot of that “she’s in her own world” crap, and a lot of snide comments about how they must be boring me if I was reading. It definitely wasn’t cool at home or at school. The biggest issue was the way EVERYONE trashed my grandma’s love of romance novels and mysteries and told me how disgusting and low brow they were, which lead to a lot of guilt and genre-shame as a young adult. (Is Judy Bloom OK, or too smutty? Is Nancy Drew a dumb mystery? Agatha Christie? )

    I’m sorry your family made you feel bad and I’m glad you’re over them.

    • That’s so funny my parents used to say the same thing about me reading too fast!! I’m glad mostly my mom and dad were cool with it (my sister liked to poke fun but mostly bc she wanted me to play dolls with her which I didn’t wan to). But yeah my prob was (is) always the aunts and uncles and grandparents. Oh and this family friend who used to babysit us.

      That is so sad about your grandma because that definitely does subconsciously work its way into your mind. Like OH I shouldn’t be reading THAT it’s crap. Luckily my one grandmother was a huge reader so she was pretty understanding and she read a TON of romance.

  2. I get this from my extended family as well. “Oh, she reads? Isn’t she too old for that?” Like what’s with the age restrictions? I’m 17 but apparently, reading is for kids?

    Even in school, I always have a book with me and some of them ask me why I’m jobless. The fact that I’m reading proves that I’m not. I think societal thinking impacts kids and high-schoolers on such topics. They see it around them. I know of people who see someone with a large bag from the bookstore and say “Her head will explode if she reads all that” or “What a waste! She has no life” And their kids are right next to them, soaking up this attitude.

    The only reason the snarky comments never impacted me was because through it all my rather bookish family had a strong hold on reading and we just blamed the callous comments on psychology and moved on. I think being anti-social most of my school years helped me fend off the bullies and read in a corner.

    • YES as if it’s a thing we will grow out of??! SIGH.

      And omg yes sooo many times I think parents say things like that about reading and other hobbies and kids SOAK THAT IN. Which either a) makes them feel bad because they like it or b) they march right into school with that attitude and make other kids feel bad.

      I’m glad you and your family had that kind of attitude! Good for you! And I’m so sorry you were bullied but I’m glad books helped you!!

  3. Jamie I have so much love for this post!!! Okay as a kid, I was alllways the one reading. I’d bring a book along with me and read while my mom visited with friends or if it was a long family visit, I’d pull out my book and read. I loved reading. My mom always said it proudly to her friends, like oh I’ve got a little reader and I think it’s because I read to her a lot! So that was nice. But then at big family things I’d get the, oh you should talk more, why are you reading? I brushed it off and in high school I never noticed it much because my friends liked to read too. It’s actually more recently than things people say have really started to bug me. Some of my friends don’t read and make fun of me for loving it so much. I brush it off like it’s no big deal but sometimes it just pisses me off. Like, I don’t make fun of you for what you like to do, why is reading something to make fun of? Also, it bugs me if people make fun of me for blogging. Not many people in real life know actually but the other day my brother in law was said something like, oh well you just write ABOUT books, in a tone that made it seem like it was the dumbest thing in the world. And blogging is hard, and writing reviews is hard so it made me mad. I don’t know why reading is cast in such a negative light but it makes me sad because we should be encouraging more reading! And yeah, I also agree, reading does not automatically make you antisocial and quiet. You could be but I’m not and I hate when people assume. Also, I apologize if this comment is all over the place or in one big chunk bc I’m on my phone and can’t read over this haha.

    • UGH freaking extended family! My parents were very supportive and encouraging of it too!

      That’s so strange how it has flipped for you. I mean, I’m sure some of my friends now who don’t read might make fun of me a little but mostly they all are like COOOL and now they actually are always borrowing my books haha. I HATE those comments too and they really piss me off because why is reading something to be made fun of? They would be SO pissed if we are like WATCHING TV IS ROTTING YOUR BRAIN and made fun of that stuff. And blogging is SOOOOO hard. I actually think that as book bloggers we have one of the hardest blogs to maintain because it could take us DAYS to finish some books and then we write about them. So if you aren’t reading, you don’t have much stuff for the blog! GRRRR. I’m mad about that comment on your behalf!!

      ALSO I LOVED THIS COMMENT’S FACE OFF (AND YOURS TOO)

  4. I am so lucky that I had parents that understood what reading meant to me. When they were growing up, they were the ones that would be caught reading when they weren’t supposed to so they knew better than to assume I was doing nothing. The problem now is, they don’t read much anymore and my mother is always saying “Oh, you’re reading. There are dishes to be washed,” or something similar. Although I have to deal with this now, I am so happy I didn’t have to as a child. I don’t think reading would be this important to me if I had.

    • Oh my parents were super supportive thank goodness it was more extended family and family friends! Although my sister DID use to make fun of me but that’s because she wanted a playmate and I didn’t always want to play dolls with her because I wanted to be reading.

      I think those kind of comments and the attitude others have towards reading DEFINITELY makes a huge impression how how much we read and stick to it as kids.

      And I hate that as an adult because I always get the “HOW DO YOU HAVE TIME TO READ?” as if I’m like shirking other things. GRRRRR.

  5. Oh no!! I want to go talk sense into your relatives. I’m now feeling very fortunate to come from a long line of readers.

  6. I always got the exact same comments. I was so happy to have found this awesome community and my best friend Stephanie, the latter of which I only met last year. Before Goodreads, I thought I was the only person in the world to love reading this much.

    • YES Goodreads totally changed my life. It brought me back to reading and made it less of a solitary experience and then BLOGGING wow…totally changed it all. I have a huge community of fun reading buddies who GET MY BOOKWORM PROBLEMS and enjoy reading as much as I do!

  7. Thats how i feel even now, like i’m 20 and i love reading but people always assume that i’m quiet and shy just because i love to read so much. I always get told to come down and not stay in my room to read all day but you know what i love to read and i’m not going to let other people’s comments ruin that.

    • AMEN! They can say what they want! They might veg out by the tv…so why is our reading by ourselves any different?? Life is too short to deny ourselves what makes us happy and relaxes us!

  8. Oh gee. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve come back from town and my parents have asked what I bought.. well duh! Books! And the disappointment that would bring.. because why was I buying more books? I already had shelves full..

    Yeah.. but I didn’t have THIS ONE on my shelf.

    My parents encouraged me to read as a child. (Although they were happier when I chose the library rather than a book store cos I went through books so fast.. still do) well, you reap what you sow eh?

    I do plenty of other stuff, I did when I was a child too, but because I opt for an early night and head upstairs with a book under my arm doesn’t mean I’m a socially inadept hermit that needs help!

    Ok.. I do need help.. but not because of the books! xD

    A really cool post.. it’s comforting, in a way, because it’s like ‘thank goodness I’m not alone in the persecution!’

    I SAW GOODY PROCTOR WITH THE DEVIL!

    ..and if you were non-bookish.. that would make me look weird.. ahem.. :s

    • Haha I think that’s the thing that a lot of people don’t understand. HOW DO YOU NEED ANY MORE BOOKS?? Except this beautiful reading community. Thank goodness for you all because I feel SANE haha.

      HAHA loved that reference! one of my favorite books we read in high school!

  9. I never was necessarily told I was lazy for reading. My family was very pro reading, which is awesome when you’re homeschooled. Once I started attending public school I started to get the message that reading books for fun wasn’t cool, and that was in 6th grade. They’d laugh when I’d admit to really liking what we read in class (how could you not love some of those?). So I stopped reading for fun, which made me kinda dislike it because I wasn’t getting to choose what I wanted. That all changed when I got to college and realized reading helped me relieve stress.

    I did see this a lot when I worked at the library. Parents would check out the max for movies for their kids, and when we would ask questions about book things (like did they want to sign up for summer reading, or if they know this movie was based off of a really awesome book) the parents would roll their eyes at us. They’d tear down reading so much even if the child seemed super pumped about the things we were mentioning. They’d say things like “well if you did that you’d have to read, and you don’t want to do that” which would upset all of us that were working because we didn’t understand how you could say that or do that. It’s ridiculous what parents will and will not do with their kids, and watching terrible movies instead of reading books (good or bad ones) is one of those that gets me.

    • YES i got the same thing early on. YOU ACTUALLY LIKE READING?!?! As if we were talking about torture here. I went through a similar gap where I didn’t read and then picked it up again in college because I no longer cared what anyone thought!

      That makes me so sad about all those parents in the library!! AWFUL! Luckily I had supportive parents who did encourage it. I remember going the library with my stepmom and she never gave me a limit for how long we could be there and let me wander around because SHE was doing the same. Some great afternoons spent in the library! And she never commented on the huge stack I took out either.

  10. I never really had the experience you had, like I should feel bad about reading so much. My parents are both avid readers as well, so I grew up with them reading me stories every night before bed and encouraging me to read once I was able to myself. When I was younger my two best friends loved to read as well. I can’t remember ever being made fun of (or something similar) because of my love for reading, but somehow once I got older I did realise that reading a lot was considered to be “nerdy” or something like that. In high school (and the years before that) I didn’t talk about books as much as I did before, and I even think I read much less often. Kind of strange, if you think about it, because I was never discouraged to read. There’s just some kind of association many people have with reading lots of books. As if every reader is less social and, like you said, lazy. Which is absolutely not true. It doesn’t really matter anymore now, though, because I LOVE reading and am not willing to hide that! :)

    • My parents were super supportive thankfully! It was more my extended family! My mom did read quite a bit as did my stepmom when I was at my dad’s. She was always taking me to the library!

      High school is ROUGH. You can have a lifetime of nurtering as a reader and then you get to high school and suddenly become SO self conscious of something you LOVE so much.

      And ditto! Now I’m sooo proud of reading and tell everyone haha

  11. Are you serious? I’m a huge reader even at school, and no one ever really bugs me. My parents goad me about reading, but they never really make fun of me or make me feel like that. The one kid that actually made fun of me for reading (okay two??) was a good friend of me and it was all in good fun. I think that my reading habits make me stand out at school against everyone else.

    I can’t believe people made you feel bad for reading! That’s terrible. :( And I can’t believe they STILL make snide remarks about it. Reading IS cool because it’s what YOU like doing. Everyone has different hobbies and I bet every person who ever said something derogatory about you had a weird hobby as well. <3

    • Oh it wasn’t my parents who did this! It was my extended family. Thankfully my parents were SUPER supportive of my reading! The comments they make now are like “OH are you still such a reader holed up in your room?” or like they will make snide comments about me as reader as a kid. LIke “OH you were the laziest kid. Your sister used to ALWAYS bake cookies with me but I could never get you up from the couch with your nose in a book.”

      That is awesome that people aren’t rude about it at school!!

  12. I would NEVER EVER look at a child who is reading and say- ‘If you’re bored I can find you something better to do.’ NEVER! I would say that if they’d been vegging out in front of the TV for hours, and not doing something as beneficial as reading. Sheesh, people… =)

    • I KNOW. My extended family was the worst haha (I say this lovingly because I do love them..they are just misguided :P). My parents were supportive thankfully and they were much happier that I preferred reading to sitting in front of the tv for hours!

  13. My mom used to worry about me spending so much time reading… she thought I wasn’t making any friends. Now she’s proud of how big of a reader I am… but I definitely remember feeling like you had to choose between books and friends when I was younger. I hope to teach my daughter that a well-rounded individual can lose themselves in stories but also has a rich and fulfilling life in the real world surrounded by friends and family members.

    Just reminds me that parents are human and we’re all just making it up as we go.

    And *I* think you’re cool, Jamie! ;)

    • YES this!! I still had soo many friends as a kid and was a big reader…and still now with how much I read I still have a VERY active social life and many friends! You don’t have to choose! It’s all about balance and, like you said, being well rounded! I think that’s why I personally don’t choose to read as much as other bloggers (I don’t know what their social lives are like and am not judging at all because I’m super jealous of them actually for reading that much ahah) but I know that if I were to read as much as them it would be hard for me to balance the other things in my life…which for me is much needed! So I make a conscious effort not to read as much as I want to always.

  14. Jaime, you always have the best posts!

    I definitely felt this growing up as well. In my elementary school, there was a contest every summer for reading books, and I always read the most and took the top prize, so I was made fun of for it. That continued in JHS and HS, and heaven forbid you told anyone you actually ENJOYED a school reading assignment (Which wasn’t all the time, but some of the books we “have” to read are really good! My favorites are THE GIVER, THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND, and TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, but so many good books!)

    Now, my family thinks I’m weird to have so many books and they don’t want to give them as gifts or they make fun of how big of a selection I have upstairs, but it’s not mean-spirited, at least.

    *hugs all the book nerds*

    • Ah see in elementary school we all WANTED to win the prizes and stuff for Book It. Did you have Book It?? It was in JH and HS for me that reading became NOT COOL. And omg YES I so enjoyed many of our assigned readings but would mimic the “UGH THAT WAS SO BORING” that I heard everyone else say so I wasn’t that oddball. SO MANY GOOD BOOKS WE READ.

  15. We definitely live in an extrovert world, where going out and being loud and engaging in hobbies where you’re surrounded by or interacting with people is the norm.

    I used to get the “so quiet so calm” comments all the time, but it was meant more as a compliment in my culture (i.e. in an Asian community, where people seem to be relatively more introverted than white Americans).

    Then again, growing up, my dad would constantly tell me to go outside and play because I actually WAS one of those readers who sat on the couch all day instead of getting soaking up some vitamin D lol. So I guess it was kind of warranted there.

    • That said… in high school, I definitely hid the fact that I liked to read from my peers. It always felt abnormal to me, that I was reading while all the popular kids were going to the mall or going to the gym or going to the pool. (I remember being on the bus one afternoon and hearing one of the girls in my neighborhood say she’d been reading one of the Harry Potter books for a month and was still nowhere close to finishing… I had a moment of shock lol because I definitely finished that book in like 4 days haha.)

    • Yeah, my parents, while super supportive of my reading, would have to remind me to go outside on some days but mostly I was pretty good about playing outside a decent amount!

      UGH it makes me so sad that so many of us hid our love for reading in high school (or pretty much stopped like me) because we felt like we should be doing what the popular kids were doing. That was so me. I swapped my books for all the cool teen mags and nail polish and mall trips. OH AND BOYS haha.

  16. I think another side effect of this is also kids who used to love reading and then got into high school where it “wasn’t cool” and then rarely picked up a book again. So it’s not only kids who have to be secret bookworms, but also though who are missing out later in life on all the wonders that books can offer because it has been ingrained within them that reading is for losers or nerds.
    Plus, as a fellow bookworm AND social butterfly, I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one who feels strange or abnormal when people ask what I like to do for fun and I say read. Books are wonderful adventures and worlds and I’m glad to know that I’m not alone in appreciating that :) Fortunately, my parents were both supportive of my reading habits (and continue to be so) even if my peers didn’t always understand my predilection for it.

    • YES this was me. I completely stopped (except maybe a book or two during summer break). I didn’t get back into reading until late college years. But in college reading wasn’t really a NERD thing. Among my group of friends it was (they were mostly guys) but my bff was a big reader too so we just told the boys THEY were all losers for not reading haha

      YES THANK YOU. You would think I was a unicorn by the way people can’t comprehend that yes I’m totally an introverted bookworm but am also a social butterfly who can be loud and outgoing.

      I am also very thankful my parents were supportive and I was around THEM more than the family members who were discouraging!

  17. “I love being a reader and I am proud of it being a part of who I am!” You can say it louder but not more clear!!!!! I feel absolutely identified with everything you said on the post that it hurts.

  18. Nikki Robinson says:

    I think in high school I was made to feel like reading wasn’t cool (unless you were reading the last Harry Potter book the day it came out). I never felt that way in elementary or middle school though- the schools I went to tried to persuade people to read. You’d get a free ticket to Six Flags for reading 600 minutes, or a special field trip if you read all of the books on certain lists and did the AR tests for them. I was always participating in those kinds of things and it made me proud! Side note, I still occasionally run into my elementary school librarian and talk to her. But in high school, things like that didn’t happen. There was no emphasis on reading. But you know what? I still read.

    • Elementary school it still was def pretty cool to read (we were all super competitive about BOOK IT!!). But middle school is where it started to change (though like you said HP seemed to always be pretty accepted). I wish I would have your attitude about reading and just DID IT rather than stopping because I cared too much what they thought. Also, it is SO strange how we are encouraged to read and then in high school that encouragement just fizzles really.

  19. I’m the odd duck in my family so it didn’t really surprise anyone when I would read, but they never talked down about it. My mom and dad always made sure I knew the importance of reading. I’ve always loved to read, and now my kids always have books with them. I don’t let anyone make comments about them either. Although they just let it roll of their backs. They will say “Yep, I’m weird, and nerdy, and geeky. And proud of it.” I love that they are so confident in their hobbies. It sucks they made you feel like reading wasn’t enough. I happen to think you’re pretty kick ass.

    • Your kids are so awesome!! I wish I had that attitude as a kid! Thankfully my parents were supportive and let me know reading was a good hobby to have! Just those pesky extended family members. SIGH.

  20. I wasn’t much of a reader when I was a kid because it WASN’T cool. Unfortunately people do see it as a negative hobbie.. which is super upsetting. Why?!?!?! Once I got to high school and made friends with people who enjoyed reading it led me to feel more comfortable with it. AND Gilmore Girls totally sparked a love of reading for me. Seeing Rory with a book all of the time made it cool. I am so grateful to that show for making reading seem acceptable! People should just mind their own business. If the hobbie does not harm anyone or anything then leave it alone. :)

    • I DO NOT GET IT EITHER!!! WHY IS READING SO AWFUL AND WORTHY OF BEING MADE FUN OF?! I rarely see other hobbies get made fun of or judged so much!! OH MY GOD YES. Gilmore Girls!!! She was the ultimate bookworm and people loved her!!

  21. Thank you for this. All of this has happened to me. “If you are so bored I can find you something to do.” People still say this to me. They don’t get it and never will. I’m not reading because I’m bored, I’m reading because I want to read. I enjoy it. A lot. I’m also not lazy because I just sit there and read my book. I don’t get that reasoning. It’s my mother who says this. Another one I get is, “why don’t you do something more constructive.” Ugh. And when I say I’m going to a book signing, it’s usually followed by somebody saying “nerd alert!” Dude! I don’t make fun of the things other people like! Leave me alone!
    My dad is also a reader and he gets made fun of by everyone, too. We’re both adults, so I guess the mocking will never end. One of the reasons I love working in a bookstore is that I get to encourage young readers. So many kids come in with their parents and I see them getting made fun of for wanting to go in the bookstore. I can’t tell you how many times I hear parents or siblings say the words, ” you’re such a dork.” It makes me upset. I always try to talk to the kid or teen and I usually end up making a new friend. I don’t feel like I’m JUST a bookseller, I’m doing my part to encourage and protect the future generations of readers.

    • YESSSS UGH. And like I think people think if you are reading then you must be shirking other responsibilities. I always get the “HOW DO YOU HAVE SO MUCH TIME TO READ?” and it’s not said in an impressed way but a judgey way.

      At least you and your dad can be reading partners in crime!!

      And YES your job is SO important! You can make the difference. I had a sister who was always calling me a nerd but I think that was more because she wanted to piss me off because she hated playing dolls alone (and I hated dolls unless they were Barbies) and so she thought making fun of me would make me stop?? I think it also intimidated her a little because she really didn’t have the attention span for reading so she felt left out.

  22. I can definitely relate to this! Growing up I took a book everywhere, I read at the dinner table, in the car, every moment I could. My aunts and uncles would make fun of me (thinking I couldn’t hear them). My parents and grandparents did encourage me to read though. Like you I went through a non-reading phase in my college years and much of that was due to the fact that people thought it was a lazy pastime. And why did I want to read, reading was boring! Now I’m blogging I read more than I ever did when I was younger, but I often feel guilty about sitting with a book, when I could be playing with my kids (even though they are content doing whatever it is they are doing). I also get some pushback from my husband, who will ask what I did all afternoon only to find I was deeply engrossed in my book, which he then thinks was me avoiding doing things around the house. I know he doesn’t mean it, because he knows how much I love reading. And it’s only usually mentioned if he’s had a long day at work, but still. I don’t complain that he plays video games (which actually gives me some reading time), so why should I feel guilty about reading? Anyway, I feel like I went a little off topic there but the point is that I hear you, I feel your pain, I think it’s wrong. Maybe those calling us out on our reading hobby are actually the boring, lazy ones!?

    • YES this was me. Always with a book no matter we went and the extended family liked to say stuff :/ My parents were supportive and so was one of my grandmoms who was a reader but the rest of them were just so rude about it. Thinking their comments were funny but they have no idea how damaging they could be.

      I can’t imagine how hard it must be to be a reader when you have kids because I can only imagine the comments you get from people. I know as an adult I get the “HOW DO YOU EVEN HAVE TIME TO READ?” which isn’t said in an impressed voice but one that is judgey and says I must be shirking other things.

      Will is pretty good about me reading but he does get pretty testy when he comes home to a messy house and I didn’t do one thing except read and blog all day. He’s like, “all I ask is that you at least unload the dishwasher.” Which thinking about it..he does all the cooking and a good chunk of cleaning so in this case he is right..I should be able to pitch in.

      Also Will playing video games = BEST READING TIME!!

  23. Yes, yes, yes, I’ve never agreed so hard with something. While I admit I did read for escapism at time, there were some times I was just fascinated by the story. People said all of these things to me and was honestly to a point that as I got older I didn’t read in front of my parents or they’d say I read too much.

    My older brother recently got into reading YA and talks about books in front of my parents, a lot but they ask him “how does he find so much time to read ?” with fascination and even attempt to read what he’s reading while if I mention something from a book its “You read too much.”

    • I totally read for both depending on the day! haha

      And that’s so frustrating that there is that double standard though! See, when I get “how do you find so much time to read??” it’s never in an impressed tone but one of judgment and like I must be lazy or shirking other responsibilities or ignoring everyone.

  24. Hm, some of my family members might have made comments but I honestly don’t remember. My grandmother on my mom’s side was a BIG reader as well so any family get togethers at her house really didn’t involve any teasing about books. As for school or peers, it didn’t affect me at all. I always had a book in hand!

    • One of my grandmother’s was really into reading too and so I loved going to her house because she would encourage it and nobody would make comments with her around!

  25. I SO hear you. My close family (mom, dad, and sister) all love to read so it was actually not really a problem at home. But my mom would get mad at me for reading all day, and I do remember never being sent to my room as a punishment because that’s where all my books were. For me, too, the bigger problem was always extended family… I remember staying with my grandparents and my two cousins in the summer and my grandma was ALWAYS harping on me to be more sociable. Actually when I got a bit older I would sleep in my tent instead of the trailer and pretend to sleep until noon so I could read all morning!

    I’ve also got many of those comments from extended family over the years… I’m lazy, rude, unsociable, ungrateful, being bored, quiet as a mouse, in my own world, etc. My friends at school didn’t necessarily make fun of me but they also didn’t read like me. I think not having people around me who read as voraciously always made me feel like an outsider and weird. And snide remarks from family certainly didn’t help.

    • When my sister and I would get “grounded” as kids we were given one thing. My sister was allowed to play with her dolls and I was allowed to read which was like HEAVEN. Oh so I can’t watch tv or play barbies or do anything with friends but I can read all day??!? OKAY!!!! I think she would have felt too bad about restricting me from reading as punishment but really it wasn’t so bad ahhaha but I never let on to that because I didn’t want her to figure out it was the best thing ever.

      And yeah, my parents were supportive…just that damn extended family making me feel bad. And that tent thing is SOOOOO something I would do!!!! Hahah I love it!

      Thank goodness we have this community where we feel super normal and never self conscious about reading!! It’s helped me not to care what others think outside of the community!

  26. I’ve never really been made to feel bad by my family, but my eight-year-old cousin did once ask me “why are you reading a book”, which really rubbed me the wrong way because the way she said it sounded like “why are you choosing to do something that doesn’t involve paying attention to me”. I’ve never minded people saying “she’s quiet as a mouse” or that I’m shy because I actually am, but I remember that someone from my school made one of those ‘you know you went to such-and-such school when…’ Facebook pages and one of the items on the list was “you only ever got one book out of the library, and if you got more you’re a geek”. If people I don’t know try to make me feel bad about my reading habits I just shrug it off because their opinion doesn’t really mean anything to me. I don’t really understand why anybody would want to shame someone for having a hobby that they really enjoy and isn’t hurting anyone.

    • I don’t get it either. HOW did reading get to be seen as such a negative thing to so many people and so viciously too?! I can’t comprehend. UGH and that comment about if you got more books out you knew you were a nerd pisses me off. UM NO IT JUST MEANS YOU ENJOY STORIES IN THE FORM OF READING. UGHH PEOPLE.

  27. OMG, Jamie, this is my life. I mean, my mom and dad didn’t care that I read all the time – they were pro-reading, and they thought it made me smart. They never thought I was lazy! That’s crazy to me…

    But yeah, I had so many family friends that just looked at me like I was a total weirdo. The stupidest comment I got: “No wonder she has glasses, she’s reading too much!”
    Considering that every kid I knew had glasses, I’m pretty sure this wasn’t actually the problem.

    And yeah, I was bullied and made fun of as a kid because I liked reading, and often read through lunch period because it was better than dealing with the real, less interesting at the moment world.

    ALSO. What you said about Sylvia Plath and Kerouac vs Nicholas Sparks? SO TRUE. I was shamed for my reading choices, and am still defending my love of YA all the time. I spent years secretly hiding my YA books while I read “good” books – and don’t get me wrong, I liked a lot of those books, but it took me years to figure out that I should just be out, loud, and proud about what I’m reading.

    Yikes, long reply as usual. Thanks for putting this out there, Jamie – I feel like it’s something no one talks about!

    • Yes same with my parents! Very supportive!

      AND OMG I TOTALLY GOT THE GLASSES COMMENT. I wore glasses from like second grade and they were like YOU KNOW IT’S PROBABLY FROM READING TOO MUCH. IF kid me was as sassy as me now I would be like OH RLY ARE YOU A DOCTOR?!?!

      I’m glad I’m not the only one. I mean, I genuinely loved Sylvia Plath and Kerouac but I read some other things id idn’t but pretended to like bc they were HIGHBROW and didn’t let myself admit to loving chick lit or anything like that.

  28. I feel your pain! My husband used to be really into dirtbikes and quads and we would go camping out in the desert with his friends. They would say to me “Don’t you want to ride? You look so bored sitting here by yourself reading” The answer is “No. I don’t want to ride. I have no interest in possibly breaking a leg. I love sitting here with nothing else to do but read” They still talked about me and how bored I must be. Even today my husband still complains I don’t sit and watch TV with him and he gets lonely because I’m reading. I’m in the same room so whats the difference? Maybe if he watched something that was remotely interesting to me I might actually pay attetntion. He’ll hand over the remote and then I feel obligated to watch TV when all I want to do is find out what is going to happen next in my book! I recently signed up to sell childrens books and am diligently working to make my boys into proud bookworms!

    • UGH I hate those comments of like “but you are probably so bored here reading.” NO ACTUALLY THIS IS THE BEST PART OF MY DAY SO GET AWAY.

      I hope you are able to turn your boys into proud bookworms!! I have been working on my niece!!

  29. I also got the “stop reading so fast!” thing from my mom. We’d be in the car on the way home from the mall and I would start reading the descriptions on the backs of my books and she’d yell at me. But in general in my family everyone loved that I was shy and quiet and always reading–I got a lot of praise from the various adults in my life for it, even though they weren’t readers at all. Junior high was where it got rough for me. But then for high school I went to a special nerd high school where EVERYONE read and it was not weird at all. It was absolutely worth commuting an hour and 15 min each way every day to be around other kids who liked being smart and reading.

    • UM THAT NERD HIGH SCHOOL SOUNDS LIKE HEAVEN. I remember being in AP classes sometimes and immediately felt like a loser when I had to admit that to people in my high school if they’d ask which class I had next. WHY IS BEING SMART AND BOOKWORMY A BAD THING?!

      Haha and I ALWAYS got yelled at too for that because it was a good 30 minutes home from the bookstore and I ALWAYS would start the book before we even left the parking lot and I’d be like halfway done haha

  30. Jessica Lee says:

    You know, I never really had this problem when I was growing up, because my parents were avid readers and still are. But I’m finding I hear these comments more and more as an adult, because I’d rather read books than watch TV. I feel like it distances me from my peers because all they can talk about are the TV shows they watch, or the actors in said shows, and I have no clue who/what they are talking about. They act like my choosing reading over watching makes me seem superior when it couldn’t be further from the truth. I just have no patience for commercials and a tv show breaks up a story across weeks, months, YEARS even, when a great story, in full, in a book can only take a couple of hours! I won’t apologize for my choices and neither should anyone else. There’s nothing wrong with movies, or television, there are some captivating stories out there! It’s just not for me.

    • YES I feel you on that. We watch some tv but I purposely don’t pick up a lot of shows because it cuts into reading time. And also yes I think people assume I’m snobby because I would rather read than watch tv and that I look down on their choice. I am so with you on this! I love all sorts of storytelling medium and do watch tv but reading is my first love!!

  31. I’ve deifnitely been there before, though, thankfully my family for the most part understood that I just loved books and nurtured that love. I’ve run into people, though, that have made some of the exact same comments. Seriously, though… how can someone think you’re reading because you’re bored? Does anyone just read simply because they’re bored?

    • I KNOWWW. I don’t get it either. Though I’ve totally had people on FB be like “hi guys. I’m bored so I think I’m going to read a book. ANy recommendations?” I obviously don’t get that boredom so OH I GUESS I WILL JUST GO READ A BOOK because every day I’m like doing a countdown until I CAN get home and read my book haha. Like on the train I’ve gotten people thinking that I’m reading because I have nothing better to do. Um NO this is just the perks of having a hobby I can do pretty much anywhere. I REVEL IN THIS TIME SO STOP TALKING TO ME, SIR. (I have major anger about this one train ride where this guy was hitting on me while I was reading and assumed I was reading because I had nothing better to do and his convo was going to SAVE ME).

  32. This is fascinating to read! I had the complete opposite experience growing up and I am shocked by how mean those people were to you! I want to smack them all upside the head with my heaviest book. My dad was ecstatic every time he saw me reading, he would always bring books home from me. Even now he will sometimes randomly send me a book that he heard an author discussing on NPR. My mom would always encourage me to borrow from her library – granted she read a lot of Stephen King and I probably shouldn’t have been reading scary stuff like that when I was young. I don’t remember my siblings being one way or another but I definitely don’t remember being bullied. Even now it seems like the people in my life are impressed by how much I read and see it as a possible thing. I’m sorry you were meant to feel bad : ( That hurts my heart and makes me want to hug all the young readers out there and tell them how cool they are. I guess it’s good that we have John and Hank Green and the nerdfighteria spreading the word about how being geeky and different and reading is awesome.
    xoxo

    • Luckily my parents were super supportive (always took me to the library and bookstore and encouraged reading) but my extended family man…WHEW.

      I wish my whole family were readers like yours! My mom would read now and again (mostly Stephen King or John Grisham) and my stepmom was a pretty avid reader but that was about it. My sister HATED reading and would always pick on me but I know that was mostly because she hated playing alone and had the attention span of a goldfish.

      And YES..I so hope because of people like John & Hank and also book to movie franchises like Hunger Games and Divergent that reading gets cut some slack and is even embraced!!

  33. I moved to a new state when I was 11, and at my new school (they had elementary, intermediate, junior high and high school there and I was now in intermediate, out of elementary and not a kid anymore) it was NOT cool to read. And I was desperate to be accepted, to have friends, and to be popular. I didn’t hide my love of reading–I stopped reading altogether. Sure, I read for class (and often LOVED the books) but until I was in college and read Harry Potter, I was no longer a reader. I look back at those days now and wish that I had just stayed true to myself. I did soon realize (in junior high) that I didn’t need to be popular and I didn’t need to be the kind of person that these other kids expected me to be, but for some reason I still didn’t pick reading back up for another 10 years or so. And that makes me sad. But I’m back in the saddle now and proud to be a book loving book hoarder! :)

    • YES this was me! I moved when I was in 7th grade and I was coming from a small po-dunk town to a nice suburb outside of a big city. I was already behind so I didn’t want to add that “nerdiness” to me. I wanted to be so accepted. It makes me sad that we both stopped reading so that we could be accepted :/ Sounds like we both have about the same gap in our reading history — I didn’t read really from middle school until somewhere in college. SIGH. At least we are making up for it now :P

  34. This makes me so happy that my family wasn’t like that. My dad’s side of the family is all readers as well, except (oddly enough) my sister, so they all get it. I think my sister might have actually experienced something more similar to this in that everyone was always trying to get her to read more. (She always has read more than what is probably average, but it’s nothing in comparison with the rest of the family.

    On my mom’s side, our family is larger, and there’s a much wider range in what people are interested in. A lot fewer of my relatives are readers on that side. I’m sure they did make comments about how much I read. I know it was kind of a running joke that I lugged books around at family get-togethers, and they were particularly amused when I had a book that should have been too difficult for my age. They were teasing, but I always got the impression that they just saw it as a quirk or were even impressed, so I was never upset by it.

    Even in elementary and middle school I felt encouraged to read. I don’t know if it was just the teachers i happened to have or the particular environment of my specific school, but I always felt like reading was awesome in school. I read more than the other kids, but they also read a good deal because we were encouraged to, so I was never teased. By high school, I was carrying a book with me to every class, and no one ever even commented. In fact, there was a fairly large group of us who did that.

    • Wow your family sounds like an awesome bunch of readers!! I would get some of the loving teasing by the family but sometimes my extended family were the ones making those harsh comments and it was so hard NOT to feel bad. I could handle the loving kind of teasing (I get that now as an adult and I totally embrace it).

      And I’m so jealous of your high school reading experience! I felt like NOBODY was reading except “the nerds” and I was way too self conscious and trying to keep my comfortable place on the social ladder. I HATE THAT I WAS SO INFLUENCED LIKE THAT.

  35. As a lifetime avid reader and mother of two middle schoolers, I enjoyed your post. The lack of understanding regarding reading from your family and friends is interesting. Many readers can relate, as evidenced by the comments.

    I was really moved by your insights about peer pressure as a factor in middle schoolers moving away from reading for pleasure. There is so much emphasis on reading from birth to five, and reading non-fiction in elementary school, but less of an emphasis on the joy and benefits of reading in middle school and later. You and your fellow YA bloggers can try to remove that derision and help keep reading cool. That is a worthy cause.

    Both of my children love to read and we encourage that. I have, however, talked with them about the timing of their reading. My son cannot pass a book without reading it, which becomes a problem when he is supposed to be doing something else. It gets in the way of his being ready on time, getting his chores done, and everything else. I have been careful to articulate my concern for his choice of WHEN he reads so it is not confused with his choice TO read. When he was in kindergarten he would read well past “lights out” and then he was very tired in the morning for school. Eventually we determined that “access to light is a privilege” and removed the light bulbs from his room. We just did not know what else to do. It makes for a funny story, but it was a very serious issue for us because his reading past bedtime created so many problems. It still creates problems now that he is in seventh grade, but luckily he is more accountable for getting to school prepared and on time, so it is slightly less stressful for me.

    • Luckily my parents were super supportive! My stepmom was always taking me to the library every week when I was with my dad and my mom was a reader so she passed down books from her collection and would take me to the bookstore often.

      Peer pressure was definitely a HUGE factor for me not reading anymore. I got that message that NOBODY was doing it and that I should be more interested in those teen magazines and boys and wearing makeup.And I totally caved though I totally loved English class and would really enjoy every assigned reading. It really is interesting how reading is hugely encouraged when we are younger and then that suddenly fizzles out as we get older. As if those foundational years were enough to keep us going as middle schoolers? I hope that we are able to remove some of those negative connotations. I also hope the popularity of series like Twilight and the Hunger Games and Divergent becoming huge franchises also helps that.

      Haha and this last paragraph made me laugh so hard. I totally would always get caught reading when I was supposed to be cleaning my room!! Also with reading past bedtime. My poor mom was probably in a similar pickle — you want to encourage the reading but LIMITS.

  36. When I was in school, sometimes my parents would be annoyed with me that I’d spend all my time holed up in my room either doing homework or reading. They would always say things like “Oh, look who decided to spend time with her family” when I came downstairs for dinner. It made me feel guilty, so I stopped reading as much when I was at home.

    Now that I’m in college, so many of my friends are jealous that I read so much and say they want to read more. I’ve found a lot more fellow readers, and it’s great because I actually have friends I can chat with about books we all obsess over (which was never the case growing up). It’s a nice reversal :)

    • YES I had gotten that guilt before (not from my parents) but from my aunts and uncles if they were visiting.

      That is awesome that you’ve found people in college. I definitely found some readers in college but they weren’t really into more fun fiction so I always felt the need to read the really highbrow things and I enjoyed some of it but not all of it. I wish I wouldn’t have been afraid to talk about my love for chick lit and maybe I would have discovered YA earlier!

      • It really is awesome! My friends in college have gotten me back into reading fantasy, and it’s one of my biggest obsessions right now. I have a few “highbrow” friends but thankfully a lot of them read (and write!) the stuff I read for fun.
        Well, even if you didn’t read YA earlier, at least you’ve discovered it now! Super cliche, but better late than never :)

  37. I’m fortunate that most of my family (parents, stepparents, siblings) were readers, too. I always got the stigma of “she’s the smartest one” of all of the cousins because I would read so much… not a bad connotation! I’m fortunate that I always felt comfortable enough to read in school, too. I was never embarrassed to pull out a book if I finished an assignment early. I’m glad you were able to move past it and embrace your bookworm ways!!

    • Sidenote: I have ALWAYS found that an interesting assumption that because you read you are automatically super smart. I mean, I was decently smart but no genius haha.

      Luckily my parents were super supportive or who knows what I would have done about reading. My stepmom was always taking me to the library and my mom always let me pick out a new book from the bookstore every so often and passed down her childhood books to me.

      I WISH I would have felt comfortable taking a book out if I finished an assignment or test early. That would have been great. Instead I like wrote notes to friends haha. But yeah, as adult I figured out fast that life is too short to pretend to like things I don’t or deny myself things I do because of what other people think. Now I should loudly about my hobby and don’t care :)

  38. Hear and have always heard this all the time. I still carry at least one book, if not more, with me in a backpack to ensure that I’m not stuck somewhere with nothing to do. If that book ever comes out, I hear things like “of course she has a book” or “you could talk to us instead of reading”. I’ve heard “you should get out more and not spend so much of your life inside”. Even from people who love me and support me and love to read, I hear offhanded comments, like I’ve taken it too far. It gets discouraging, but at some point you just have to let it go and embrace who you are and what you love. I get the same disparaging comments about playing video games. I’ve just learned not to let it bother me.

    • YES I get made fun of (mostly lovingly) for always having a book in my purse (and my kindle). BUT HEY…look who was perfectly fine when getting stuck on the road for 4 hours (normally 30 min commute home) in a snowstorm…THIS GIRL..because I had my kindle and my book and an extra book in my car haha.

      I think that’s the great thing about being adult…I brush those comments off so much better than I did when I was a young and impressionable kid. Now I’m like DON’T CARE..I am much more concerned with being happy and reading makes me happy. And honestly I’ve lived many years pretending to like/dislike things that I don’t like/dislike and life is TOO short to deny my true self.

  39. Cassandra Cyphers says:

    I’m in high school now and reading still is not considered to be “cool.” I try not to be ashamed of the fact that I love to read, because when it’s something you love to do, it’s hard to just pretend it doesn’t exist! I shouldn’t be ashamed at all. I’m working on it.

    Who decided it was lame to read, anyway? It’s just like watching your favorite Netflix show or listening to your favorite band. It’s still entertainment.

    Reading is the opposite of lazy. In comparison to watching a movie or a TV show, for example, you have to do a lot of work as a reader. Besides the physical work of moving your eyes across the page, you are creating new people and an entire world in your mind. People who think reading equates to laziness don’t understand how to read at all!

    I really liked this post, Jamie! Keep up the great blogging. :)

    • Thank you for the kind words, Cassandra!

      That makes me so sad that reading is still not considered to be cool :( I was hoping that maybe with the surge of Twilight and The Hunger Games and Divergent that maybe people would be more into reading and respect it more!! And good for you…do NOT be ashamed. I wish I could go back and tell my teen self that because I so regret the huge gap in my reading history whre I didn’t do it because I caved to peer pressure and let myself think something I loved was uncool.

      Our minds are always engaged and I really do think that reading makes us more empathetic and in tune with humanity. I really do. Also IMAGINATION.

      I hope you are able to keep reading and not feel ashamed about it and anytime you DO…you talk to me because I will tell you how cool you are!!!

  40. Yesssss, thank you so much for this post! I’ve actually been thinking about this a lot. I never really had anybody to talk to about books growing up. People would say it’s lazy and uncool, especially my peers and even friends. So I started hiding it away and reading in private, because getting lost in another world was better than reality sometimes. And I never talked about the books I read, because no one I knew, family and friends, were big readers. Unless it was Christian fiction (a lot of my family members ONLY read this genre), but I grew away from that and I also read unconventional stories that they would find wrong and probably judge me for. But I do have a bookworm friend now who has similar tastes to me, and we have tons of book talks during work. And it’s so wonderful that I can finally share my love for books without feeling “uncool” or “lazy.” My roomies were very good about my reading habit too, which I loved. They knew that sometimes I’d just like to hole up in my room and read and be alone, and they respected that. But before, in middle school and high school, I didn’t really have friends like that. Not that my friends are bad people (or my family); they just don’t understand what books mean to me. And that’s why I love being a book blogger so much. I can share my love of books in a safe place where I won’t feel judged or ridiculed or unsocial because I’d rather read and blog than go to a party on a Friday night.

    Aaaanyway, sorry for the long comment! I just love your post. :)

    • Do not apologize for a lovely, long comment!! :)

      My reading experience was also very solitary. My sister HATED reading and would say how boring I was (I mean, she was little and wanted me to play dolls with her so I can’t fault her). My parents were good about taking me to the library (my stepmom and mom were both readers) and bookshop so I always felt like it was encouraged from my immediate household (minus my bratty sister :P)

      That’s the thing that’s changed this hobby of mine — finding this community where I’m no longer seeing reading as a solitary experience and I LOVE IT. Haha and yes about the reading on a Friday night thing. I love going on Twitter on those nights where I feel lame because I see how many other people are home reading and blogging!

  41. I am lucky that my parents have always encouraged reading, although this might have been because whilst my brother and sister were running around and making a mess, I was quietly sat in a corner with my book! I did always hide it from my high school peers though, because there was definitely a ‘reading isn’t cool’ mentality there. This changed a lot though when I went to college and university, but seen as I studied literature I guess it’s hardly surprising!
    I agree though that reading shouldn’t be immediately assosiated with being quiet or anti-social. I am quite a quiet person, and I suppose a little shy, but that isn’t because I read, it’s just a personality thing. I have other hobbies, and no one makes assumptions about me based on those!

    • My parents were very encouraging of my reading as well — always taking me to the library or bookstore..it was more my extended family and some family friends. I think with what a wild child my sister was my bookworm tendencies were also welcome to my parents for sure :P

      It’s so sad that so many of us got that “reading isn’t cool” vibe as teenagers. I would read in the summertime during high school but that was about it. I didn’t talk about it at all. College I started reading a little bit again but it was definitely more of a “I want to look smart and impressive (read: I was super pretentious actually) thing” and so I didn’t actually read a ton of things that I wanted to. All my choices were strategic to look different and cool to impress an older boy. (which I DID because we totally bonded over it but that never worked out haha)

      It is so funny how a lot of other hobbies don’t quite get your personality pegged the way that reading does. MAN, the things people have assumed because of that being the biggest hobby I have.

  42. Uh it must be an extended family thing. I’ve always liked reading, ever since I was little and my parents encouraged that with me and my siblings, but I so often got urged to ‘go out and play’, ‘oh, she’s shy’ (until I screamed at a family member to stop kicking me) & the well loved ‘you have to poke her, she’s in her own world and not listening’. I didn’t stop reading in middle/high school, if anything I became more voracious and used to hang out in the library all the time, even at lunch. Me and my friend used to make trips to the public library’s and do reading sleepovers and stuff.
    I think if someone wants to read it should be encouraged, not snarky remarks made. Reading is a big part of my life, even now and I’m not stopping for anyone.

    • UGH extended family *headdesk*

      That’s awesome that you had a friend to read with!! I wish I had that in middle school/high school. Pretty much none of my friends read for fun.

      And amen, now as an adult who is 100% confident in her life choices, I’m like YEAH I AM A READER WHAT ABOUT IT?!

  43. Reading this made me feel so lucky to have grown up in a family that valued reading. My parents and grandparents have always been very encouraging and supportive as they are big book lovers too, so it’s a hobby we’ve been able to share together. Most of my extended family enjoy reading too, and those that don’t respect that it’s important to me. I was also lucky to know so many school friends that were avid readers, so I never felt like the odd one out.

    It must have been tough being criticised for your favourite hobby all the time! I always hated it when people compared me to my siblings-I think it can be quite damaging to define children by saying things like “she’s the quiet one/clever one/sporty one”. We all grow and change and shouldn’t have to fit in a pigeon-hole. I’m glad you had some family and friends that supported your love of reading.

    It would also really anger me if someone said that reading is lazy. Us readers travel miles to complete dangerous quests, do battle with dragons and armies of undead and endure tests that push us to the limit-all in an afternoon! It can be emotionally and mentally exhausting! We’re exercising and expanding our mind-the most important muscle we have!

    • Luckily my PARENTS were super supportive of my reading — always buying me books or taking me to the library and encouraging it. That’s really nice though that your extended family all were supportive! It’s not like mine was like DON’T READ IT’S DUMB..it was just these little comments that made me feel BAD about it.

      Yes criticisms are so tough. My poor sister would always get the “why can’t you be like your sister in school” thing and I know it was hard for her. I don’t think my parents really MEANT to do that but they did. It always made me the smart one and then my sister was always the fiesty daredevil one! THIS “we all grow and change and shouldn’t have to fit in a pigeon-hole” I am still the same in some ways but I am SOOOO different now as an adult — I’m more social, confident and outgoing. But the one person I was thinking about when writing this is this family friend (she also babysit all of us as kids) but she ALWAYS would say I was so lazy and not fun like my sister. I saw her recently at my baby sister’s graduation and just how she talked about me while “reminiscing” about when we were kids….and I was like WOW that’s how she saw me?! She thinks I’m still the same and it’s weird and I’m like I AM NOT THE SAME PERSON. YOU DO NOT EVEN KNOWWWW ME AS AN ADULT.But that’s all she has in her mind.

      HAHAH and TRUTH to that last paragraph!!

  44. Thankfully I never really got those kinds of comments growing up, but I’ve been told at times, particularly in a work environment, that I’m so quiet, like it’s weird. First off, a lot of people are quiet and introverted, and secondly, I’m working, so I’m not really supposed to be chit-chatting. When I am comfortable and with my friends and family, I’m really not quiet at all; but with people I don’t connect with, it’s different. I don’t have something to say to everyone. That’s just the way I am. People are uncomfortable with other people who are different from them or they don’t understand or who don’t fit into their expectation boxes. Many people expect kids to be loud and rowdy and you didn’t meet what they expected, and they assumed you were bored or whatever when you were just doing what you love, which happened to be a quiet activity. And then kids teasing kids about studying and reading… that was something I would get, not really for reading but just for being smart, and I never understood that. Why was it a bad thing? Well it isn’t, but I made them feel bad for not trying as hard. It makes me sad that there is a stigma with reading or studying or other similar activities that people write off as being strange. I saw a quote once that I think really sums it up best though: “The quietest people have the loudest minds.”

    • UGH at my old job too!! I got told I was being too anti-social during work (same deal as what you said…which UM I’m working and getting more done than the chatty kathy’s over there) and during lunch because I would sit and read (funny enough my boss ALWAYS ate lunch in his office by himself)! I’m like UM THIS IS MY ONLY HOUR DURING THIS 8 HOUR DAY THAT IS MINE. WHY CAN I NOT DO WHAT I WANT??! I HAVE TO DEAL WITH PEOPLE ALL DAY. So I would alternate from hanging out with these ladies during lunch and taking off before them and going to the park to read.

      UGH I remember kids saying stuff in high school about studying and learning. Like you would get teased if you did well or like if were in the AP or honors classes. WHY IS BEING SMART NOT A COOL THING?? Maybe it’s just intimidating.

      Love that quote!!

  45. The other day, in English class, we were discussing Ernest Hemingway’s quote: “There is no friend more loyal than a book.” I was asked to explain whether I agreed with the quote. Of course, I did! I mentioned being an avid reader and the fact that I actually tend to prefer the company of books over that of people. The room was silent, so I started babbling about how you can learn from books or something, and I ended with “just like people really.” I wasn’t saying that books are just like people; I was saying that you can learn from books just like people, but I don’t think that’s how my class interpreted it. I felt like face palming myself. I thought: “Oh, gosh. I sound like such a loser.”

    I wish I could rewind and reword my awkward, embarrassing last line, but nothing else I said was false. I really do love to read, and I’m an introvert, preferring the seclusion of my room and a good book. I’m actually proud to say that I love books, that I’ll skip a party for one any day. If people think I’m a loser for that… oh well.

    • HAHAH best story ever. That’s so something I would have done!! I think that’s the beauty of this community is that this hobby of ours ISN’T so secluded anymore! Sure, while I read I’m secluded but I’m either texting or tweeting or gchatting with someone after most books and then talking about it in the comments of my review!

  46. My family were all HUGE readers and still are, so in my family — not so much. But others, yes. “It always made me feel like I was not as fun as…” <<< Oh this…yes! And not just in the past, but sometimes now. I am boring because I would rather read than sit in a bar and drink, or I am boring because I would rather browse in the bookstore than the shoe store. It's okay though…I'd rather stay :boring."

  47. This is a brilliant post Jamie, I don’t remember ever having comments like that but it does annoy me that reading is perceived as ‘uncool’ or ‘boring’. To me reading is the same as watching TV; if it’s ok to sit on your butt and watch TV all night, why is it boring or uncool to sit on your butt and read a book all night?

  48. I was lucky enough in school to be surrounded by people that either a) read a ton, too or b) didn’t care. People knew I was a smart nerd and they got over it! lol

    But this post hit me personally in a different way. A few summers ago I was nannying for a couple of kids. One was going into middle school. We had to go out and buy his summer reading books, and he was dragging his feet and complaining about it. We ended up buying The Mysterious Benedict Society for him because he said he liked the cover the best. I get to the house the next day, and he tells me he stayed up and FINISHED the book! (It is over 500 pages!). I was shocked that a kid who dragged his feet to the bookstore would do that! When I asked him about it, he told me that he secretly loves to read, but that he pretends he doesn’t so that his friends don’t make fun of him.

    That was the day that I knew I wanted to be a Children’s/School Librarian, so that I could convince kids (especially boys) that reading AND videogames are cool. It broke my heart that he has to lie. But I will help fix this problem! That is my professional goal, to make reading cool.

  49. Hi Jaime! Thanks for writing this. I can already tell by all the comments that this is something a lot of readers have dealt with while growing up. So many of your points hit home for me. I actually am a shy and introverted person but I still didn’t appreciate hearing about how quiet and boring I was as a kid when I preferred to read rather than do something else! Today I am a librarian and happy to be surrounded by books all the time–but outside of work I really don’t know anyone as book crazy as I am. Thank goodness for book blogs like yours and goodreads!

  50. I think it’s quite terrible how they seemed to take your sister as the right example.. It’s not okay to compare you to her in such a way, because you are two different people.. I hate it when people judge in such a way.

    I never got this message from my family. They always lovingly call me their ‘little bookworm’ or ‘their booknerd’ and they have always supported my love for books. One aunt I hardly see did say things like ‘being so quiet and shy’ and how I was a ‘nun, because I still had no boyfriend and was always reading’ but she is silly and I always knew that. My parents laughed about it, so I couldn’t care less about her remarks.

    ‘Reading is boring’ was mostly I message I got from peers in primary and secondary school. It wasn’t cool to spend time reading and ‘how can books be fun, there are only words in them.’ I never gave a shit about that, haha. I only felt sad for them, because clearly they could never see the magic of books :)

  51. I’m so glad that I didn’t have your experience. The one way I could avoid doing house chores was to show that I was reading a book. And when my mom said, “Go outside and get some fresh air!” I could usually tuck a book along and hang out in the nearby fields reading. All my extended relatives lived far away, so I’m not sure what they thought about it.

  52. Ohmygosh, this is so true! I love to read, especially YA, but sometimes I feel the need to tone it down around my friend or people around school. I definitely feel like I’d get majorly judged at school if I started talking about all my YA book obsessions. But, I don’t talk about reading at school, because most of the time I get blank looks and annoying judgmental questions. They just don’t get it!

  53. You almost make me cry because it’s incredibly true. I felt all of that; that I was lazy, not fun and social awkward. Most of my family don’t respect the fact that I like books. Luckily, my parents and sisters, support me from long time.

    My mom always like reading, so she was ok with that, but my sisters didn’t. It funny ’cause when I started reading my sisters didn’t like it, they was so upset with me, because I prefer books than do other things, and tease so much because of it, but then, they read The Hunger Games and felt in love for books just like me. So now we all this family crazy for books.

    Though, my immediate family supports me, other members don’t. And it was even worst with my middle school and high school classmates, who never understand the passion for books. Today, that I’m in college, I’m more confident and proud to say that I’m a reader and I love books.

    But sadly there will be always people who don’t understand and will be judgmental.

  54. Ugh, I’m so sorry that you felt that way Jamie! I definitely went through times when other people would look at me strangely for wanting to read, but I was very lucky to have parents who are just as book-obsessed as I am and always tried to emphasize that being different because you like reading was fine and being different was a blessing because who wants to be identical to everyone else, ha. I was also a bit isolated a lot of times in school because I didn’t have a group that I felt I fit with and instead of trying to fit in, I just decided not to care (or at least act like I didn’t care, it still hurt) and read a book during lunch period. I get so annoyed at this culture that criticizes kids who like to read and then bemoans the number of people that don’t read!

  55. I never really realized how lucky I was until I read this. In my family that fact that I was a reader and a fast reader was actually kind of something that was bragged about. My grandmother is a reader as were most of her siblings and my dad’s family weren’t big readers but have a very to each her own kind of mentality. The only place I ever felt embarrassed about reading was actually school where I had some teachers freak me like a freak because I read too fast. They spent time trying to prove that I was lying about how fast I read. It was kind of weird. Thanks for sharing!

  56. My parents were usually pretty cool with my reading. I do remember one time filling out a survey for something in school that asked what my hobbies were. I didn’t know what to put, so I left it blank. When I handed it in, my teacher called me back and told me to put “reading” there. So ever since then (I was about 9), I’ve thought of reading as a hobby just as much as anything else.

  57. I finally got a chance to read this post (I didn’t want to just skim it) and it made me realize how lucky I am. I was homeschooled through high school and my mother got me reading so early that she now blames my nearsightedness on this. (It’s not true – she started my sister reading later and my sister has glasses also.)
    But not until about a year ago did I realize that my parents were not at all big readers, and that it was an effort for them to make me a bibliophile (though I don’t think they knew the extent to which it would reach). I am SO grateful to them for this.

    And now after reading your post, I’m even more grateful. I’m glad you came back to reading and didn’t let those comments inhibit your love of books forever. I wish every reader had someone to tell them that reading IS cool, and that it’s actually GOOD for you. I suppose the upside to your situation is that if you ever have kids, you will be extra careful in nurturing their love for books.

    (Now let me just squeal at how adorable your future kids will be. GOSH.)

  58. I love love love this post, Jamie! I kind of forgot how people made me feel when I was a kid and still do now about being into books. My parents were always super supportive of our bookish tendencies when we were kids, but like you, the extended family would make comments.

    I then fell out of reading in middle school and high school for the same reason. I was labeled a nerd in 6th grade and had next to no friends and I desperately wanted to be friends with the “cool” kids so I dropped the reading and the nerd glasses, started wearing makeup, and voila, got in w/the popular crowd. I was the same way pretty much all through high school and then college was just plain busy.

    So I got back into reading after I graduated. But even now I get comments from people. One of the guys I work with constantly makes fun of me for reading. A joke here and there is fine, whatever. But when it’s every day, multiple times a day, comments like “you’re so lame” “you need to get out more” “you should really get yourself a life”. It’s mean and hurtful. I don’t judge your hobby, don’t judge mine. So I get it and it totally sucks. And it makes me especially mad that they make kids feel this way because kids should love to read and shouldn’t be shamed for it.

Trackbacks

  1. […] interesting revelation this morning that I want to share with all of you. It’s entitled “I Got The Message Loud & Clear: Reading Isn’t Cool” and it’s about her struggle as a bookworm child. How her family judged her and thought she […]

  2. […] Jamie @ The Perpetual Page-Turner shared her feelings and experiences on the perception of a reader by a non-reader. […]

  3. […] still exists in books ~ Inge asks: How do you deal with Reading Slumps? ~ Jamie talks about how people made her feel bad for loving to read ~ Kara admits that she likes writing negative […]

  4. […] Jamie discusses how her extended family thinks reading is uncool. […]

  5. […] at The Perpetual Page-Turner talks about how uncool reading is. (No, it’s a good thing. And something all bookworms have dealt with a time or two… at […]

  6. […] Jamie from The Perpetual Page-Turner talks about how reading reflected on her as a kid […]

  7. […] Jamie at The Perpetual Page Turner tells us why reading isn’t cool […]

  8. […] I read so many posts from her blog this month that really caused me to stop and think, like I Got The Message Loud and Clear: Reading Isn’t Cool. Plus, I always feel like I’m going to have a good time when I visit her […]

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