Lost in my Work by Margaret Hale
A few weeks ago, a friend and I were having a conversation about learning to “turn off” work, or not spend so much time working at night. I have tried in the past year to do a better job of using my time during the day more efficiently so that I don’t bring as much work home, and I thought I had actually been pretty successful. When I said that I thought I was doing well, her response centered on the fact that I still read in the evenings. In my mind, reading is a totally different story.
This conversation stuck in my head for several weeks. Yes, I read mostly books written for children, middle grade students, and young adults. I also read professional books and journal articles. Occasionally I read an adult book – for example I couldn’t wait to read Dan Brown’s Inferno when it came out earlier this summer.
I work in education, so technically speaking, most of the things I read impact my work. As a professor of both young adult and children’s literature, the children’s and young adult books I read are immediately applicable. I also do consulting work focused on literacy in various schools, so the professional books I read are immediately applicable in those situations.
But somehow, all of that reading isn’t like work for me. Victor Nell, in his book Lost in a Book, writes about the idea of ludic reading, or reading for play/pleasure. For me, most of the time that is what reading is – a chance to play. Granted, there are some times when I must read something that has been assigned or that is required for one reason or another, but the children’s, young adult, and professional books I choose to read bring me pleasure. So I don’t consider reading an extension of my work day in that sense.
I find that for many adults, even English teachers, reading is a kind of work for them. They don’t regularly have experiences where they get lost in a book. Instead they see reading as something else on their to-do list, a chore of sorts.
All of this thinking about what reading feels like for me got me thinking about another recent incident. After reading a book, I tweeted and posted on Facebook the title of the book I had just finished. I had actually posted several titles that day as I was working through a stack of recent picture books. A friend commented on my Facebook post asking how I stayed so ambitious.
As I thought about her question, I realized that she meant ambitious in terms of work. She is an English teacher and based upon our previous conversations, I know she thinks of reading children’s or young adult books as preparation for her job.
Reflecting upon both of these incidents has helped me to realize (not for the first time) that I love what I do. I love reading books and being able to talk to students and teachers about those books. I love connecting them with books they might enjoy. And when it gets right down to it, I just love reading and I’m so glad it is a part of my work!
Earlier this week I had the television on Good Morning America and was eating my breakfast when they reported a startling statistic: 70% of Americans hate their jobs or are completely unengaged. Shocking! But thankfully, I am not one of those 70%. I love what I do and I love the reading I do as part of it, whether it feels like work or not. Maybe that is what keeps me ambitious. I am one of the few who “get to do their work” rather than “have to do their work.”
Margaret Hale is an admitted biblioholic who spends her time teaching literature, language arts, and reading courses to pre-service teachers at the University of Houston, working with teachers in school districts around the Houston area, and reading as much as she possibly can. She is also the co-director of the Tweens Read Book Festival. You can find her on Twitter as @grithale.