Featured Image: Oleg Oprisco
While many of my peers spent their childhood playing outside and learning how to kick a soccer ball, much of mine was spent on a blue bean bag in the kid’s section of my local public library.
It wasn’t that I hated sports. I swam on my YMCA’s team and I was something of a tennis prodigy at a young age. I danced and eventually competed on my studio’s team for a year. Despite following through on all of these passionate pursuits, not one of those things brought me the same joy that reading did.
I was the kid at the library who would stand in the check-out line with a stack of books taller than her head in her arms. The kids around me, with only two or three books in their arms, would cower in fear. Librarians loved me. Parents admired me. I got the most stickers during the summer reading challenges and was the champion of flying through pages.
Going to the library became something like a routine. Just as my mom would stock up on food at the grocery store every week, I would too with books at the library. When my love for books became something more like an obsession, my mom would have to come prepared with a huge bag of returns that would inevitably be filled after I made my new selections for the week.
Reading is a pivotal part of who I am as a person, even a decade later. I have no doubt that I’d be a different person if I hadn’t read Cupcake Diaries or Keeper of the Lost Cities or Percy Jackson as a kid. I guess it’s not so much of a surprise when I tell you that I’m the president of my high school’s book club. I’m a well-rounded book nerd — I like reading books, talking about them, and dream of one day writing a novel.
I guess what is surprising, however, is how little students read these days. I’m not talking about reading Hamlet for English. I’m talking about reading for pleasure.
My proof? In a school of nearly 2,500 students, only 5 are enrolled in my book club. Including myself.
Is it because these students don’t enjoy reading?
I strongly believe that the only people who don’t like reading are the ones who either trick themselves into thinking they’re too busy for it, or haven’t found the right book. You can replace your free hour of binging Netflix with reading a book. You can replace browsing on Instagram or TikTok or LinkedIn with trying out a new fantasy novel. There are instances where I totally understand that you’re physically too busy or fatigued to pick up a book and read… but rather than thinking of it as a chore to complete, why not think of it as a break? Why not think of it as an opportunity to better yourself or to rest with some entertainment easy on the eyes and strong on the imagination?
With all of this explanation going on, you have to start to wonder if the majority of students fall into this category. I think not. I argue that some may fall into the former category, while the rest believe there are better things to be doing with their time.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that you should drop out of the Math Team to join a book club if you’re obsessed with quadratics and see AP Calculus in your future. What I am saying, though, is that if what’s stopping you from joining a book club is the idea that it’s not significant enough to go on a resumé, not worthy enough to go on your LinkedIn page or be mentioned on your college apps, I say quell your fears and join the club.
Who knows, maybe you’ll join the club, hate it, and decide never to go to a meeting again. Maybe, though, you’ll find that you love discussing books with people and sharing your interest in upcoming releases with friends that are closer than a tap of the screen.
Many times, I see underclassmen hesitating to join clubs focused on things they’re interested in, whether it be for gaming or ping pong, or writing, because they’re afraid of having their interests belittled; or of realizing, come senior year, that everything they’ve done is pointless and unworthy of mention.
I want to reiterate, first and foremost, that reading is incredibly important. It shapes us into the people that we are today. It changes our perception of the world and of society. It tells us stories of worlds different from ours and lets us escape, as long as we wish, to a place that is free of the problems we face. It serves as a warning for the future. A longing for the past.
Reading is important and underrated, and I say, as unbiasedly as I can, that book clubs are LinkedIn worthy. Book clubs help you learn the art of discussion. They show you how to express yourself eloquently in a communal space. Book clubs are the place for you to grow alongside others, all while reading and enjoying whatever leisure time you have outside of studying for your endless exams.
The second thing I wish to emphasize is the fact that not everything we do needs to be to impress others. Sure, it’s impressive that I get to say I’m the president of a club, but I don’t do it for the college credit. I do it because of how rewarding it feels when my members cheer after a great discussion or eagerly vote on our next month’s pick.
Especially in high school, it feels like everything we’re doing is watched and curated for colleges. I’m doing Model UN because my college likes it. I’m suffering through DECA because it’ll look good when I apply for business school. There isn’t really any love behind our actions anymore. It feels cynical — everyone’s vying for a spot in the world and we’re stepping all over one another in this imagined competition to become the most desirable student.
What happened to authenticity? What happened to doing the things that we enjoy because we enjoy them? Where has all our passion gone?
Let’s bring back doing things because we love them, not because we want to add them to our resumé. Let’s bring back the times before we spent hours on LinkedIn comparing our academic achievements with others. College might be a competition, but that doesn’t mean that life has to be.
Let’s bring back passion. Let’s bring back high school book clubs.