I am a writer. Reading is a key component of what I do, and both reading and writing have reminded me of the strengths in others that are often overlooked or underappreciated. Society likes to sneak in little forms of prejudice, that while appearing innocuous, pack a big, harmful punch. And at times, in my thoughts if nothing else, I’ve been guilty of participating in it. Yet while I haven’t always reacted in a gracious manner to people who operate differently than I do, I aim to keep an open mind.
This includes not shaming or bullying people who do not read.
According to The Atlantic, the number of non-book-readers has nearly tripled since 1978, though their findings were from 2014. The Atlantic has also reported that Millennials are out-reading older generations. Our culture, I believe, has become more book-saturated than ever before. That bodes well for my love of reading, as well for my career.
But in recent months, I’ve ran into some troubling memes and posts created or supported by fellow bookworms:
These memes and posts shame non-readers and cast them in a disdainful light, as though their lack of reading makes them deplorable people. Ours is a culture that puts great importance on reading, but the truth is that reading is by no means the only way to learn. Reading can be a great tool to help people learn how to communicate with clarity, but it isn’t the only way to communicate. Human beings are equipped with a variety of communication tools: aside from intuition, there are facial expressions, mannerisms, and other visual-related mechanisms all part of something called observational learning.
For example, some people learn how to cook not by reading recipe books, but by years of watching their mothers or fathers prepare meals for their families. I for one need to follow recipes, so learning how to cook simply by watching is definitely not a strength of mine. And yet, I don’t believe those who know how to cook from years of watching their parents have ever shamed or insulted me for not possessing their particular skillset. Can you imagine?
Jeeze, Sarah, I can’t believe you have to read in order to cook a meal! Shame on you, shame!
Flip the tables—put yourself in their shoes. Direct the insults at yourself in regard to your lacking areas, and just as though you were speaking to a misbehaving little kid, see how it makes you feel.
Once again, society has created a shame-filled, hostile environment for those it deems unworthy or less-than.
In every group of people, of course, you will find those who are kind and those who suffer from insecurities, and as a result, will treat others who are different as inferior to them. Decades ago, bookworms were part of the nerd group, and were bullied because of it. These days, it’s “cool to be a nerd”. The internet and social media has offered a voice to introverted nerdy types, and has in a lot of ways, glorified being a nerd. Don’t get me wrong–it’s great (I’m a part of that group)! But, so it goes, hurt people hurt people. Could it be that nerds have become the bullies? I believe that yes, some of them have.
Reader: Don’t Confuse Your Elitist Behavior With Intelligence
Discriminatory bookworms have developed a sense of elitism, flaunting their intellectual superiority with a smug air. But here’s the thing: Saying you feel sorry for people who do not read and shaming them does not make you look intelligent.
It makes you look small-minded and intolerant. That’s right, it makes you look stupid—it makes you look emotionally unintelligent. You’re adding to an already ugly culture of separatism, which eagerly lends itself to the destruction of humankind.
Reading, after all, is not the backbone of society. Humanity is the backbone of society.
But, it’s not too late to redeem yourself. …All that information you’ve gleaned from reading and writing? Stop lording it over others who don’t read. Find a way to teach it to them—show them, put it in a format they can understand. Use your strengths and learn how to celebrate the strengths of others. It will make you a better person, which subsequently will help make the world a better place. There is already enough discrimination in this world and an overabundance of mean people. Don’t be one of them.
Some have argued that those who do not like to read simply haven’t found the book that is right for them. Sure, there is a wealth of book formats with varying reading levels available, but the truth of the matter is, some people have good reasons for not reading. Either they had a traumatic experience with reading (were called stupid due to dyslexia, etc), or they learn better by watching or listening—or both. They still have worth. They still have their own brand of intelligence. Don’t feel sorry for them. Learn from them.
And here’s a closing thought: if reading hasn’t taught you how to, with an open mind, consider the viewpoints of others different than you, perhaps you are doing it wrong. But, you’re different than I am. You have your own way of doing things. So long as you’re not hurting others…I won’t shame you.