Read Like The Bachelor: A Guide for Students by Kate Roberts

So one of the more embarrassing facts about me is that my wife and I are pretty committed Bachelor and Bachelorette watchers. In fact, we have not missed an episode in about ten years.

 

We take no pride in this, yes there is a good deal of shame. I’m sure you know people like us – reasonably intelligent people who spend 2-3 hours a week watching one person weed through 25 possible opposite-sex suitors to find “the one.” (Spoiler alert: rarely is this person actually the one.)

 

I wish we could say that our watching is about criticizing the show, about making fun of the horrid absurdities put proudly on display. It is not. We are invested. Somehow, every season, I wind up caring deeply about who Arie (or Rachel, or Ben) chooses to be his fiancé on a wind swept plateau in Peru (or Finland, or Mexico).

 

Recently, there was something about this weirdness  – taking something totally silly very seriously – that struck me as also true about what you are doing when you work on your independent reading life. Especially for those of you who do not really like reading. Who think it’s boring, or dumb, who think the books you read are not realistic, or just a little corny, or not as fun as playing Super Mario Odyssey.

 

Because while you might be right, choosing to be wrong might bring you great rewards.

 

After all, The Bachelor and all related shows are ridiculous. But in taking them seriously, I work on some things that I find valuable – I discuss morality with my wife, analyzing what behavior we find right and wrong. I get in touch with romance, (very, VERY cheesy romance). I escape and relax. I have fun.

 

And reading can seem ridiculous too. How is reading this story about vampire love, or fake kids dealing with social issues, or a future horrible world that doesn’t exist, going to help me in my actual life? And there are plenty of adults who will tell you that the reason reading is so important is because it’s awesome and so fun and it opens worlds and also your heart and you just have to do it all of the time. And they are right, in a way. Reading really can be awesome. It has opened my eyes and my heart and my mind. It has been a transformative force in my life. But that is not why I became an English teacher.

 

I believe in building an independent reading life for all of the reasons above but mainly for this one: being a more powerful reader offers you more choices in your life. Being a better reader means school is easier which means you can choose to go further in school if you want to which means you will have more choices for your entire life than you will if reading is a perpetual chore. And the only way to get better at reading is to read. (Just as in order to find “the one” you often have to date quite a bit.)

 

And so, as you work on building your independent reading life, I would like to offer you some lessons about reading that I have learned from my decade of watching The Bachelor.

 

  1. 1. Cast a wide net.

 

Each Bachelor/Bachelorette season opens up with 25 contestants vying for one person’s heart. That means that the Bachelor himself begins this journey with a whole bunch of options. This is good because it breaks him out of his comfort zone.

 

As a reader, I think I know what it is I like to read. I tend to be a fantasy/dystopia person. But when I am building my independent reading life, it’s good for me to try lots of different things – graphic novels, realistic fiction, romance, historical fiction – because then I can get a sense of what else is out there that might surprise me.

 

  1. Stay open.

 

Sometimes the Bachelor or Bachelorette is on a date and it goes horribly. Or there is a weird conversation and I’m all like, “well that person is going home!” And then I am wrong. Things get better, and like soon they are on hometowns and it looks like they might get a proposal. (If you don’t know what I mean by this…well it’s all very complicated.)

 

It must be hard for the Bachelorette to stay open to multiple people she is meeting. In her heart she must feel like one person is better for her than the others. But season after season I watch Bachelorettes fighting to keep their hearts open to lots of different options, allowing them to be surprised.

 

I hope the same thing for you as you read lots of different kinds of books. Maybe one will start off boring – stick with it awhile and see if it changes. Maybe you read one historical fiction book and think ugh I’m never reading one of those again – try at least one more to see if it was just that title. Maybe the teacher has assigned you a book and it is hard and you hate it – go with the teacher for a while and see where she is leading you. Staying open means you are allowing yourself to explore the world. And this is just a good way to be as a reader, a student, a person.

 

  1. Be selfish.

 

While the Bachelor stays open to possibilities, he also is not afraid to do what is right for him. “I’m here to find love,” is a mantra on the show, and apparently part of finding love is learning to be selfish when you need to be. So when the Bachelor knows that someone is not right for him, he will send her home – even before the Rose Ceremony! (Again, if you don’t know what that means, it’s truly not worth knowing.)

 

I think it is important to be a little selfish when figuring out your reading life too. Like if your classroom only gives you hard novels to read for long periods of time, I think it’s important that you go find the stuff you like to read, too. Or if you are having trouble finding time to read because life is super busy and you have a ton of homework, being selfish and asking a parent for even ten minutes in a quiet space to read can have a big effect. It’s hard to find the time to do what is best for us, and sometimes it takes a little selfishness to make it happen.

 

  1. Take it seriously.

 

The thing I am continually impressed by on this dumb show is how seriously people take it. Like, when there is a contestant on who doesn’t take finding love with this random person seriously people are furious! How dare they not be a 100% committed! And this is silly. And yet, it kind of works. Because people go on this somewhat sincere adventure to find love, they often learn a whole bunch about themselves and what they are looking for. Even if they don’t wind up married, they usually walk away sort of smarter about love. This only happens because they take the journey seriously.

 

I hope the same for you in your reading journey. Maybe you won’t fall in love with reading. But by taking it seriously – by really diving into the idea that reading more might offer you new insights, a bigger heart, and more choices in life – I guarantee you that the journey will have been worth it in the end.

 

  1. But know it’s not that serious, not really.

 

Of course, The Bachelor is ridiculous. I know that. It is fake. It is totally hetero-normative. It is, if not racist, not in any way woke. While I let myself enjoy the show, I am not unaware of these things, and also enjoy critiquing it along the way.

 

Reading is not ridiculous. And it can quite literally help you to become a better, more aware, more awake person. But it is also not the only thing that matters. And so while you go on this journey to become a more independent, more voluminous reader, please know that if at the end of it you still hate reading, it is ok. I have plenty of friends who do not read and they are just fine. Maybe they would be better if they read, who knows. But they are fine. Just like in the Bachelor, it is easier in some ways to take reading seriously if we can also admit that it’s not life or death most of the time.

 

So as you enter into the last part of your school year, think about how you could increase your reading and build a more independent reading life. Yes, because reading is awesome. But also because reading will open doors for you. Not all of them, of course. But it helps. Be the Bachelor of your reading lives and find the “one” way that reading works for you.

 

KATE ROBERTS is a national literacy consultant, top-selling author, and popular keynote speaker. She taught reading and writing in Brooklyn, NY and worked as a literacy coach before joining the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project in 2005, where she worked as a Lead Staff Developer for 11 years. Kate’s latest book, A Novel Approach, asks how we can teach whole class novels while still holding onto student centered practices like readers workshop. She is also the co-author of Falling in Love with Close Reading (with Christopher Lehman), DIY Literacy (with Maggie Beattie Roberts), and she co-wrote two Units of Study books on Literary Essay. Her work with students across the country has led to her belief that all kids can be insightful, academic thinkers when the work is demystified, broken down and made engaging. To this end, Kate has worked nationally and internationally to help teachers, schools, and districts develop and implement strong teaching practices and curriculum.