Food for Thought: Get Paid to Read
Reading a book is like eating your veggies; they might not be exciting to consume, but they improve your quality life. Think of all those battles fought at the dinner table over a piece of broccoli--do you think your parents enjoyed negotiating with a five-year-old?
Dad: “I don’t care if you don’t like it--you have to eat it.”
Child: Searchers for the smallest piece of lettuce. "Done.”
Mom: “We said three full bites.”
Child: Finishes the task in a manner that suggests it belongs on a list of crimes against humanity.
No, your parents didn’t enjoy those drawn out, illogical duels, but they knew how important it was for you to eat your vegetables, so they selflessly endured until compliance was met because healthy eating is the antidote to the number one killer in America: heart disease. Developing healthy habits, young, ensures a better quality of life. This is true of eating your vegetables, and it is true of reading your books.
In 2007, The National Endowment for the Arts published a detailed study called “To Read or Not To Read: A Question of National Consequence,” which illustrated that Americans from nearly all demographics--especially young adults--were reading at significantly lower rates than just 20 years prior. Who cares, you think? Well, the study revealed three startling things:
Employers now rank reading and writing as top deficiencies in new hires.
Good readers have more financially rewarding jobs.
Less advanced readers report fewer opportunities for career growth.
There it is--a direct correlation between reading and prosperity. If you want a higher paying career, you need to read.
So why isn’t everyone reading now to be more prosperous later? Sadly, books can’t compete with smartphones, video games, or Youtube, just like broccoli can’t compete with Crispy Cream, cheese fries, or chips because such technology and foods are engineered to deliver instant gratification in the form of addictive dopamine hits.
However, since reading is an antidote to economic stagnation, I implore you to find some gumption and do the hard thing: develop a reading habit just as you would a healthy eating habit. At first, reading may not be as enjoyable as some of the easier to consume options, like social media, but over time, you’ll physiologically adjust. The more you read the easier it becomes and you’ll come to enjoy it--if you have the right books.
Maybe you’re thinking: easy for her to say, she’s an English teacher, but I wasn’t always a good or avid reader. In fact, when I was in elementary and middle school, I was in remedial reading groups and even had to be pulled out of my regular classes to get extra help with reading skills. Then, the summer going into 9th grade I discovered Nicholas Sparks, the man behind the romance novels of The Notebook, A Walk to Remember, Message in a Bottle and dozens of other cheesy, unlikely tales. I am embarrassed to admit this, but as a hopeless romantic, I devoured those books. I read eight of them that summer, and by the time I started high school that fall, I was a good reader, much improved writer, and English became my favorite (and easiest) subject.
I want every student to undergo that same transformation, but I fear the classics aren’t catalyzing the cathartic reading experiences necessary to counteract the civic, social, cultural, and economic ramifications of a nation with deteriorating reading comprehension skills.
For this reason, I’ve been actively applying for grants to bring contemporary and engaging books into my classroom with narrators that understand the issues of my students' time. Thus far, I’ve received five grants and over 200 books because I desperately want to help students find pleasure in reading, so they regularly choose a book over their phone and improve their quality of life.
To better your future, it doesn’t matter what you read, so long as you read and read often. This alone will make you a better reader, and down the road, it will make you a more desirable employee with more career options. Who doesn’t want to get paid more? So, find something you like to read and make the effort to develop a habit of reading. As the research shows, reading will change your life.