Reading is never a problem in my family. It is second nature; in fact, it is like breathing. Everyone has a book he/she is plumbing through. I got the habit of bringing a book from my dad who, to this day, brings a book with him when he travels. The number doubles or trebles when I am travelling long distance. While others hit the malls to shop for clothes and shoes, we go to a bookstore first like Kinokuniya at Takashimaya shopping centre when we’re in Singapore.
I first started with Aesop’s fables followed by fairy tales and this anthology I inherited from my Filipino-American cousins in elementary. Mystery books – Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys Frank and Joe Hardy, and the Bobsey Twins – became my favourite. Then my mum introduced me to Sam Spade and the Continental Op, and mystery stories never left the top spot of my reading list. Greek mythology also caught my attention. I actually still have the ratty copy of Edith Hamilton’s “Greek Mythology” that I permanently borrowed from a high school classmate. In university, I was completely taken by Latin American literature with the late Gabriel Garcia Marquez and his legendary “100 Years of Solitude” leading the klatsch of authors. I also forayed into Laura Esquivel’s world and was enraptured by her “Como Agua Para Chocolate”.
Reading never left me even when I entered the rat race. I always had a book especially during lunch, which often left my colleagues staring at each other in consternation. I was, apparently, a poor thing because I was alone. They glossed over the stark fact that I wasn’t since I had a book with me. I did try to establish a routine by not reading during lunch and actually joining them, but it was a mistake because of one incident that is forever seared in my mind. I had moved to another publishing firm that my former editorial assistant had joined. What I read as her newfound confidence turned out to be nothing than asinine pomposity, having earned the status of owner’s pet because, as she confessed, of her practice of giving him sycophantic compliments. So I joined my former assistant and her cohorts for lunch twice then stopped because it was no different from eating lunch alone. She asked why I stopped. I explained that everyone spoke in Mandarin and I was tired of interjecting and asking for the English translation. Her rejoinder: just sit and listen.
Back in the world of teaching, reading plays an important role that should be obvious to educators and parents, but is, lamentably, not. The comments about reading run the gamut of funny to absurd. One student – a seventh grader – said he read “Percy Jackson”, but didn’t understand an iota of it. Apparently, reading is looking at the letters and words until the end, but not connecting them to comprehend the idea. Another – a former 12th grader – said he prefers reading on the Internet than actual books.
Now, one day, about 10 minutes before the start of my class, I saw something that could only be described as a miracle. Obliquely to my right, there he sat reading “Percy Jackson and The Lightning Thief”. No matter if this was because I berated him and his classmates last week for their lack of knowledge of pop culture, which, for their age, includes Rick Riordan’s books. Chick magnet, the moniker he gave himself, is finally reading! Fingers crossed that this develops into a life-long habit like mine.