If you read the June issue of Wichita Family, you know my family and I enjoy the game of baseball. However, the recent rains have put a bit of a damper on the usual baseball activity, at least the backyard baseball games. Many of our June days were spent inside watching the clouds pile themselves and dump their contents on us. When the storms canceled our plans, we exchanged baseball for read- ing. Even though it feels like we just escaped the trappings of school days, something about summer reading feels different.
As a teacher, I spent the school year pleading with my students to read, and I remember my own school days — even in college — when my teachers pleaded their own cases for classroom books. One specific moment stands out. I was supposed to read selected chapters from one of the most imposing American novels ever written: Moby Dick. Throughout the spring semester I resisted the reading, every once in a while grinding through a passage, and somehow still passed. However, with the dread of the white whale fresh in my mind, I spent the rest of the summer reading the whole story, cover to cover.
What had seemed insurmountable had become enjoyable; I look back on that summer with affection, and I have distinct memories that will forever be associated with Herman Melville’s classic.
So what was the difference? Why did I resist the small portions of the book in the spring, only to embrace the whole work in the summer?
The June rain reminded me. It may have stopped our baseball games, but when we pulled our books out, my gratitude was renewed for the ability to choose what I read. It’s so simple, but reading becomes a relaxing activity, one that refreshes and grows us, when we are loosed from the bonds of compulsion.
I often tell my students that the summer is the best time to read; many of them agree, but I get plenty of loaded stares as well. But reading goes hand in hand with time off, and the same goes for shorter vacations and weekends.
It’s the independence.
This is the month our nation celebrates not only the freedom to speak our minds or own our own land, but also the freedom to read and think for ourselves. May we never take that for granted.
Ian Anderson is a teacher, a husband, and a dad. He lives with his family in Central Kansas. Occasionally, he tweets here: @ian_writes.