One of my jobs is substitute teaching in local high schools. I've asked students if they know anyone who owns an e-reader, since the writers/readers loops I'm on are filled with people who seriously think that everyone is on their second or third generation reader. There are usually a few hands that go up, as students admit their mother might have an e-reader, or even some of them might have one, or use their I-pads to read books. But they are distinctly in the minority.Invariably when I ask the classes if they prefer paperbacks, the students who do like to read, those who often have books open while they are supposed to be doing worksheets, will insist they prefer to hold an actual book in their hands. The rest of the students will look at me as if I'd just asked if they kill and butcher their own meats before they eat. When I query further, what usually comes out is that for most of the teens, the idea of reading for pleasure is an anathema. They read what they have to, for classes. They can hardly wait until they are done with high school so they won't have to read anymore, (many seem to think college won't require reading! I chuckle warmly to myself at their naivety.)
This idea of reading as being onerous and not pleasurable surely must be the origin of the statistics that proclaim the "average" American adult hasn't read an entire book in six years. That's right, at least six years. Wow. The first time I read that I was stunned. I learned to read from my mother before I was in kindergarten; she had me read her newspapers while she was cooking. By first grade I was reading Shakespeare out loud to her. As I got older, my tastes have continually evolved, but to me it was a natural progression to become an English major when I got to college. My parents strongly objected, Dad telling me I was wasting his hard-earned money on a degree that would allow me to quote Shakespeare to diners while I served them their food. I hate the fact that he was right since I've learned subsequently that no one in the business world values the erudite, well-read intellectual. But I made my choices and after years of writing, I've ended up with two part-time bread-money jobs and I write when I can make the time.
But as authors, it behooves us to understand why the vast majority of adults don't read...or if they do, it's magazines, or e-zines these days, devoted to specific interests, like sports or porn. What is it about reading they find distasteful? Is it because it's hard work, to think about the words you're reading? I can't understand that way of thinking, since reading has always been my ticket to escape from reality. How else can you live someone else's life? How else can you understand intimately what it was like to live in another era of time, or to experience historical events as they were happening? Through books I've had "conversations" with people who were long dead before I was born, yet after reading their words, the ideas they had in their brains can now live in mine. What could be more interesting? I'll never know exactly what it is like to be a man, or to be born and raised in a different country or time period, but I can read books written in first-person and catch a glimmer of what that particular person thought about life. I can study human behavior in books, and look around me to see the evidence that the author was correct, or in error. I can escape from the boredom of the everyday routine nature of life by temporarily imagining myself to be the hero/heroine of whatever fiction I'm reading, and I can become magnificent and important for a short time. How can something that is habit-forming and addictive, yet not deleterious to your health, be shunned as if it was a disease? How can people not flock to reading to allow them to dream of bigger and better worlds?
I realize I'm preaching to the choir here, because if you didn't like to read and write, you wouldn't be here. The oldest of my four kids didn't like to read, but I used every trick I had ever learned and made up some new ones, to get him interested. As adults, all of my kids make the time to read. But what about people whose parents aren't English teachers? How do we reach them, to get them to see the possibilities contained within the pages of books: the cheapest, least fattening, legal, and totally healthy way to pleasure yourself?
If you want to learn about my books, please visit me at: www.fionamcgier.com
I write contemporary erotic romance, but my stories incorporate what I think about things like the eternal struggle between the sexes, the importance of family, and the nature of the society we experience in the western world.