3 Good Reasons for Teachers to Read
Good teachers read.
If you do not read, then you are not being the best teacher you could be.
This reality is harsh, but true. Teachers who actively seek to open their mind to new experiences through reading are going to be better at a job that requires exactly that. Students need us to understand their varying circumstances on a daily basis. You know what makes us good at adapting and empathizing with a multitude of situations? Reading! And let’s not forget that reading is simply good for your mind. It helps your brain stay sharp for the long term. And finally, reading makes you not a hypocrite. That’s right. I said it. If you require your students to read, or even encourage it, you need to be reading, too. There are no if’s, and’s, or but’s. All teachers need to read. The best way to promote literacy is by being a good example.
#1 Reading Makes You More Empathetic
Empathy is one of the most important characteristics of a good teacher. Our students are people first. They have families, friends, and pets (which are both family and friends) that are integral to their lives. They have good days and bad days and mediocre days. But no matter the day, you need to serve the educational needs of students who have wildly different experiences from you. So in order to be a good teacher, you need to be able to understand circumstances outside of your own. You need to be empathetic. At the very least, when you can’t be empathetic, you need to be sympathetic.
We’ve known for ages that reading teaches our students empathy. Study after study proves this. But it is time we apply this truth to adults. Reading doesn’t magically stop teaching empathy when we turn eighteen years old. It continues to help us. I recently read a memoir by Roxane Gay. This book opened my eyes to experiences I would not have been able to previously fathom, simply because I could never experience them without her words. And this isn’t a one time affair. Every single time we read books we encounter events that we would not have otherwise.
Books are not just portals into other worlds, they are portals into other people. We can use them to briefly become someone else. Through that, we can learn empathy. Through empathy, we can be better teachers.
#2 Reading Literally Makes You Healthier
I have a secret: I don’t like apples.
It’s teacher sacrilege, I know. But instead of an apple a day to keep my doctor away, I keep my health under control by reading.* It has been proven to be good for both your mind and body. An article by The Atlantic cites several studies that show how reading can be beneficial to your overall well-being.
This study, published in Neurology, demonstrates that reading can slow the cognitive aging process. When your mind is engaged in intense mental activity, it does better. Think of it like working out at the gym. Using your muscles more allows them to be stronger. A different study, this one by the University of Toronto, showed that reading made people more willing to be “left uncertain.” At first glance, this might not seem like a handy skill, but it definitely is. Black and white thinking can be debilitating. The world has many shades of gray, blue, red, and yellow. We need to be able to handle that there are often multiple responses to a situation and many of them are neither right nor wrong. Sometimes, a response can even be a strange mixture of both right and wrong! And lastly, a study by Stanford University concluded what is actually the most obvious thing I have ever read in my entire life: Reading causes you to use your brain. Unsurprisingly, this research also suggests using your brain is good for you.
Long story, short: Read. Use your brain. Be better.
#3 Reading Makes You a Person of Your Word
If you are a good teacher, you should be encouraging your students to read. And if you are encouraging your students to read, then you should also be reading. It’s a marvelous cycle.
Being an educator means that you have taken on the responsibility of promoting strategies that are good for your students’ overall education. And believe it or not, learning is good for student education. And you know what is an easy and fun way to learn? You guessed it. Reading. Even if you’re not an English teacher or elementary school teacher that explicitly asks your students to read novels, you are still asking them to read. Textbooks and nonfiction pieces count. Make no mistake, students notice when you practice what you preach. If you’re able to recommend them books or have a quick conversation about whether or not the book was better than the movie, they will notice. Your teaching is so much more impactful if you can walk the walk and talk the talk.
Not to mention, reading makes you a lifelong learner. You are subscribing to the very philosophies that you are promoting to your students. This can be scary. Oftentimes, it’s hard to learn something new. It can be frustrating. But our students go through this fear constantly when they are sitting in our classrooms. It’s our duty to be good examples and be learners, too.
#4 Bonus Reason: Reading is Fun
More important than any of the three reasons I have already listed, you should read because it’s fun. It really is. I promise. Either you’ve just forgotten how fun it is or maybe you never knew. Regardless, you’ve got an adventure waiting for you. By reading for ten to twenty minutes every night, you can be a better example for students, entertain yourself, and stay abreast of novels that are changing the world around you.
What’s the Solution?
Read more. Even if it’s just a little.
Undoubtedly, the hardest parts about reading as an adult is finding the time. I recommend finding some part of your day where you can build a habit of reading. For example, every night I lie in bed with an ebook before I go to sleep. It helps wind me down. And sometimes, I get some awesome thematic dreams.
Another issue that keeps us from reading are bad books. I am the first to admit that there are some books that should never have been put down on paper. Looking at you, Artemis by Andy Weir. We don’t have time to sift through the slush of ‘okay’ books, hoping that a gem will land on our lap. We need good books and we need them now. We have no patience for mediocre or average. The only books we want to read are books that capture our attention, books that make us want to find time to read them.
Have no fear, I’m here to help. These are ten FANTASTIC novels that you will not regret reading. They may keep you up at night, but they will certainly not bore you.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
All American Boys by Brendan Kiely and Jason Reynolds
Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon
American Born Chinese by Gene Yueng
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Wonder by RJ Palacio
Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins
Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan
The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
*This story is used for hyperbolic and anecdotal purposes only. Books should never replace nutritious meal choices. Furthermore, I do not recommend you eat books. But if you do, let me know what happens.