IN DEFENSE OF A POLYAMOROUS READING LIFE written by Jane Losinger
I am here to publicly admit that I have embraced a polyamorous reading life. The term “polyamory” comes from the Greek for “many loves” and is usually defined as having more than one romantic relationship at any time. Before I go any further, no, this has nothing to do with Fifty Shades of Gray or any other romance novels. Instead, I use this term to refer to being engaged in reading more than one text at any time.
Now I did not always subscribe to this way of reading. My childhood reader self would cringe at the thought of beginning a second book before finishing the first. As a budding reader, not only did I always have my book to read when I completed my school work, but I actually kept the book open in my desk so I wouldn’t waste any precious reading time flipping back to where I left off. Like many avid young readers, I stowed a flashlight and a book under my pillow and read into the wee hours of the night. During summer break, my mom took me and my sisters to the public library weekly. We each started with a three book limit (there are four of us, so that was enough books to keep track of). This didn’t last long as I would blow through those three books by the next evening and then whine about being bored until she conceded and brought me back to the library for more. Soon enough, I was checking out an entire stack each week, allowing me to start and finish book after book. I loved the bittersweet feeling of finishing the last page of Harriet the Spy or Little Women, like a giant, audible exhale, all the while knowing that with the next inhale, another intriguing adventure awaited me.
This sequential reading habit followed me into young adulthood, where admittedly, my reading slowed. In high school and college, pleasure reading took a backseat to Shakespeare, Steinbeck and other assigned reading. As a novice first grade teacher, I diligently checked out picture book after picture book from the school library in preparation for interactive read alouds and student reading conferences. While I occasionally picked up a New York Times bestseller (think Freakonomics) and traded popular quick reads with roommates, I couldn’t find my groove.
In my graduate reading specialist program, my love for reading was reinvigorated by a children’s and adolescent literature course. I was thrilled and inspired by the exquisite children’s books that I had not yet read. I threw myself back into pleasure reading with deep determination. From Maniac Magee to The Watsons Go to Birmingham to Maus to Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, with each exhale and inhale, I could feel the resurgence of my reading habit growing stronger and stronger.
Then I had kids. Three in five years. My neat, organized life became chaotic, glorious, but decidedly non-sequential. After a brief period of denial in which I desperately tried to cling to order and logic, I made up my mind to welcome a less structured and more fluid stage of life. As a working mom, time was more of a commodity than ever, and I recognized that without some adjustments, my reading life could be constrained to reading Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site and other bedtime stories to my kids.
Enter polyamory. After reading Knuffle Bunny for the one-millionth time and ensuring the kids are really asleep, I crawl into bed with the thriller All Things Cease to Appear by Elizabeth Brundage. I’m lucky if I make it twenty minutes before passing out myself. At this rate, I won’t finish the book for quite a while. In the morning, I listen to Bone Gap by Laura Ruby on audiobook on my fifteen-minute commute to work. Once I arrive at work, I reread several chapters of Dan Feigelson’s Reading Projects Reimagined in preparation for a grade level meeting with a group of middle school language arts teachers. While waiting at the doctor’s office, I open Twitter on my phone and follow a link to the latest Nerdy Book Club post. If you were to check out my GoodReads account today, I have eight books on my “Currently Reading” list. My polyamorous reading life allows me to engage with each of these texts at any given time. Although I still savor the predictable exhale/inhale of transitioning from one book to the next, I now revel in throwing off the bonds of my past monoamorous reading life, and expanding my horizons through multiple reading relationships.
Jane Losinger is the supervisor of language arts literacy for Howell Township, a K-8 school district in central NJ. She cares deeply about inclusive education, girl power, books, coffee, and most especially, her husband and three children. Jane has been an avid reader her entire life, but has never conceptualized herself as a writer. This is her very first foray into blogging. You can find Jane on Twitter at (@jlosinger).