For the second year in row, we’ve been spending the holiday season making Lit Wish Lists—lists of books we want to give, books we want to get, books to read or reread. And all this thinking about Lit Wish Lists got us pondering the nature of the Lit Wish; what exactly might one of these look like? So we went exploring to find out, and came up with three excellent Lit Wishes worthy of coming true in 2014. First up is one by Holly Kent, Community Manager of the National Reading Campaign.
My Lit Wishes for 2014?
I’d like every person on earth to be literate—highly literate. I’d like books and other reading materials to be accessible, affordable, and widely purchased all over the world, outselling all other media. I’d like Alice Munro to be required reading for all human beings. I’d like all students to have fifth-grade teachers like Mr. Bromley and for their reading habits to be changed forever when he hands you a copy of The Giver, like mine were. I’d like all minds to be blown in the 11th grade when Ms. Tarawana recommends The Handmaid’s Tale. (What is it about dystopian novels that change lives?) I’d like everyone to be raised by passionate readers, to audit at least one long, rambling, passionate English class taught by Professor Michael Keefer at the University of Guelph, and to grow into the type of adult who joins book clubs for fun. I want everyone to get in one loud, possibly tipsy, arm-waving argument about whether The Great Gatsby is the greatest novel of the 20th century or just superficial tripe. Or whether The Hunger Games is too gratuitously violent for teens. Or whether Ernest Hemingway is a misogynist, and whether that takes anything away from his work. You know what? I don’t care what you argue about, but arms must be waved.
Oh—I only get ONE Lit Wish this season you say?
Alright, my one wish is that I’d like everyone to read for pleasure. I don’t care what they read, and I don’t have an amount of time in mind (let’s just say as much as possible), but I’d like everyone to read books, newspapers, e-books, blogs, magazines, poetry, and short stories. You see, reading does so much for us. Reading for pleasure is linked to better overall satisfaction with life, higher incomes, healthier relationships (lower divorce rates), and better mental health. It actually lowers your heart rate and is more relaxing than listening to music. Margaret Atwood recently pointed out on Twitter that reading makes you better at sex. We’re sure that’s true, but don’t currently have the research to support it. Stay tuned. Reading fiction makes you empathetic—as if you’re actually spending time in someone else’s shoes.
Literacy is important, and it’s clearly the first and most basic step to becoming a reader, but it’s reading for pleasure that makes every aspect of one's life better. Not everyone was raised by arts majors, or had teachers who were passionate readers, or threw a drink in someone’s face during a conversation about The Hunger Games, but everyone can pick up a book and get lost in it, or read a newspaper everyday, either online or in print.
Let’s get a little closer to being a nation of readers in 2014, Canada.
About Holly Kent
Holly Kent as been working in the book world for over six years and has been an avid reader for 29. Having previously worked with the Canadian Children's Book Centre and Scholastic Canada, she is currently the Community Manager at the National Reading Campaign and a member of Word on the Street Toronto's board of directors.
About the National Reading Campaign
In 2008 a group of volunteers—readers, writers, educators , librarians, parents, young people, and book and magazine publishers—got together to talk about a nationwide way to make Canada a country of readers.
Over the course of four years this group grew and organized three national summits, held in Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. The summits provided the opportunity to learn about national reading plans around the world, from Brazil to the Netherlands, and to discover the best of the many innovative programs already in place in Canada. Since then, word spread and more volunteers came together in working groups of more than a hundred participants to develop uniquely Canadian strategies around reading.
The National Reading Campaign incorporated as a not-for-profit organization in 2012.
The National Reading Campaign’s mission? To make reading a national priority. The National Reading Campaign’s vision? To create, sustain and grow a society in which everyone has an equal opportunity to become and remain a lifelong reader.