Why I Like Reading So Much by Alan Katz
There are three questions that keep coming up in my life.
The first is something my wife asks whenever I show her a new manuscript: “Are they seriously paying you for that?”
The second is often posed by one of my three wonderful kids (I have four in all, but that’s another story). It usually goes something like, “Yes, it’s a school night. Yes, I have 200 pages to study for tomorrow’s huge test. Yes, I have a 20-page paper due. But why can’t we go to the Mets game tonight?”
And the third is a question I’ve heard at many, many school visits. Quite simply, after I finish my pro-writing, pro-reading presentation, kids ask, “Why do you like reading so much?”
Now I know all the stock answers we’re supposed to give: Reading informs you. Reading entertains you. Reading satisfies your curiosity. Reading expands your horizons.
All true. But I’ve got some to add to the list. Like, reading is better than eating. Far better. Think about it; you sit down to your favorite meal, and it’s yummy, tasty and delicious. But when you finish it, it’s gone.
When you read a book, it’s equally satisfying. And when you finish it, it’s still there—to be enjoyed again or shared with a friend or relative. As an added bonus, when you finish a book, there are no crusty dishes to wash.
I say that reading is also better than the candiest candy, the concertest concert, the beachiest beach day, or the arcadiest arcade. (With a book, there’s no cavities! No ear pain! No sunstroke! No carpal tunnel or thumb strain!)
I realize, of course, that this might be a really weak—or possibly stupid—argument. I’ve enjoyed arcades. I’ve attended concerts. There’s a whole bunch of candy in my pocket right now. And I’m obviously in favor of young people having food. (Though I wouldn’t go as far as former Major League ballplayer Doug Rader, who famously suggested that kids eat their baseball cards, because there’s a lot of good information on them, like pitching and batting hints.) But I know the value of reading, and I have since I was an itty-bitty, teeny-weeny, giant baby.
When I was a kid, I was never without a book or two or seven, usually sports bios or important novelizations of I Dream of Jeannie and The Brady Bunch. But generally, I didn’t care; if it had words and you put it in my hands, I’d read it.
My parents had me reading fluently before I hit kindergarten; it was their way of proving to the cousins how smart I was. They’d drive me to the library whenever I wanted to go (as a sports nut, I pretty much had the entire 796 section of the Fresh Meadows branch of the Queens Borough Public Library in my bedroom throughout my entire childhood. Renew, renew, renew. Wanna read the Carl Yastrzemski Story? It’s in Alan’s room.).
My parents would also purchase anything and everything I wanted to read—with one exception: encyclopedias. See, Waldbaum’s and A&P and all the other supermarkets were major distributors of encyclopedia sets in the ’60s, selling them on a continuity plan. In week one, the “A” volume was 9¢. Week two, “B” was 19¢. “C” came a week later for 29¢, and so on…except for “D” through “Z,” the volumes were $1.99 each. It was a come-on, designed to get you to shop there for 26 weeks to complete the set (well, 24, since XYZ were in one special alphabet-ending volume).
But…my parents always stopped buying after book C, just when the introductory pricing ended and the staggering increase took effect.
I had the A, B and C volumes of Funk and Wagnalls, and the same with a Grolier set. So…if I had to do a report on an animal, I was all set to pontificate about aardvarks. Bison were fine. Camels, coyotes and cockatoos? No sweat. I just had to pray teachers didn’t assign me to write about elephants, lizards or rhinos; I never had the books.
But am I complaining? No. Well, sort of. But they were fantastically nurturing parents who fed me and clothed me (in husky clothes, because of all they fed me), and inspired me to read and be curious and laugh and learn.
And as I come to the end of this remarkably insightful and well-written piece, it would be fantastic if I had a summation that would crystalize all the thoughts I’ve presented, culminating in a well-crafted joke that would make you howl with laughter and want to follow me and friend me and share this blog with everyone you know. But frankly, I don’t. I’m pretty disappointed, and I’d imagine you are too.
I’m not gonna end with a food pun. Too cheesy. And like a skipped meal at Outback, it’d be a missed steak.
I’m not gonna go back to the topic of school visits, not gonna blatantly mention that my 2015-16 calendar is filling up fast and for more information, write to me at email@example.com. (Yes, AOL. Stop snickering.)
And I’m certainly not gonna reiterate the whole “I read a lot as a child” thing.
So I’ll leave you here, with a note of appreciation for all you do to share the joys of reading.
There. I like that ending. It’s sweet. Sincere. Meaningful. And I’m proud that I didn’t succumb to the temptation to mention the first book in my new chapter book series, The Day the Mustache Took Over; 208 pages of hilarity based on my twin sons Nathan and David, with wonderful illustrations by Kris Easler.
It’s available on September 1 from Bloomsbury. And the best thing about it is, after you read it, it’ll still be there. Which is why, as a famous man once said, reading is better, far better, than eating.
Sorry. And thanks again. Keep reading.
Alan Katz is the author of many silly books for children, including the bestselling Take Me Out of the Bathtub and Other Silly Dilly Songs, illustrated by David Catrow. The Day the Mustache Took Over is his first chapter book. He lives in Fairfield County, Connecticut, with his wife and their four children. Alan can also be found at www.alankatzbooks.com.