While I was sitting by the pool in Hawaii, I took the cover off my hardcover copy of The Heart of Betrayal because I didn’t want anyone to see me reading fiction aimed at 12-17 year olds. My godmother has special book covers made out of patterned-fabric to put her books inside – she says it’s to protect them, but on another level, I’d say it’s because she doesn’t want anyone to know she’s reading Harlequin romance novels. When was the last time you told someone about what you were reading? When was the last time somebody even cared? We ask each other what TV shows we’re watching all the time – but books hardly ever come up in conversation.
The answer is simple – reading has never been perceived as particularly “cool.” A post by Jamie at the Perpetual Page Turner recounted how, as a child, her family would make her feel bad for reading so much, and still do to this day. A post on ‘Confessions of a Book Geek’ described how a good friend of hers joked about her having a collection of Roald Dahl books, and she felt the need to lie about it and say they were for her nephew. I’ve only recently found a friend who I can share my passion for reading with – and only because she shares in that love. People turn down their noses at those who choose to read books like Twilight because they think they’re silly and poorly written – but for a whole generation of teenage girls, that book and its sequels were everything. And they should not have been made to feel ashamed for loving it.
No one – not children, not teenagers or adults – should feel ashamed of what they read, or of loving to read.
Does a chef feel ashamed for loving to cook? Does a musician feel embarrassed by what instrument they love to play? No. And neither should you feel ashamed or embarrassed by what you love to read. People read for many reasons – to expand their horizons, to learn more about the world, to lose themselves in another place for a while, for fun! There is no reason to feel embarrassed about that, or to make others feel embarrassed for it.
To quote Rae Carson, “I don’t care if it’s Twilight, or Fifty Shades, or War and Peace, never let someone make you feel ashamed of what you love to read.”