If you like to read, society tells you that you are allowed to only be a certain way. You are allowed to be introverted, you’re allowed to be shy, you’re allowed to wear glasses, and you’re allowed to enjoy school. You are not allowed to be cool, you’re not allowed to be out-going, you’re not allowed to be attractive, and you’re not allowed to dislike school. These are just the beginnings of what I imagine could be an exhaustive list of “Do’s and Don’t’s for Readers”.
This stigma and stereotyping around reading is frustrating. It is something that has bothered me my entire life and I am certain I am not the only one annoyed. The negative nerd-shaming stigma that comes with people who enjoy reading can be the very thing that prevents people from reading in the first place. Out of fear, how many children and adults avoid reading because they think their friends, school peers, colleagues, and family might make fun of them? Reading isn’t cool enough because it is only something that anti-social, introverts with big thick glasses do… right?
People also think that if you like to read, you must like a certain type of literature. But it’s just not true. I know people who read romance novel after romance novel, but have never read Tolstoy. It doesn’t make them more or less of a reader. I’ve spoken about this before, and the idea that there is only one type of literature worth reading is wrong, outdated, and only further puts pressure on people to be seen reading the ‘right’ kind of books. This is the same for people who prefer to read magazines and newspapers. Whilst these hold a bit more social and intellectual street-cred there is still a stigma that if you like to read, you must just like books. End of discussion.
We need to re-think not only the way we conceptualise people who read, but also what they read. We should read and be able to read for the right reasons: enjoyment, fun, knowledge building, relaxation. We should not have to fear that stereotypes like nerd, introvert, and uncool will be thrown at us simply because we read. Prioritising one type of reading over another is also ridiculous. It doesn’t matter how you exercise your mind, just as long as you are doing it. Read because of how it makes you feel and ignore the haters.
Have you ever been frustrated about the stereotypes that come with being a reader? What have you done to combat them? As always, remember to share the reading love.