Crawford: Tales of a former bookworm

Colin Crawford, Columnist

Every summer, my sister and I used to take weekly trips to our local library. Armed with a large tote bag and an umbrella for the predictable afternoon thunderstorms, we walked about half a mile in the Florida heat to scavenge the stacks for good reads. We loved to read more than anything, and the summer often gave us the freedom to be entirely consumed by books. 

Each selecting about half a dozen titles, we would carefully place them in the tote bag: one stack for me and one stack for her. The straps of the tote bag left marks on our hands as we each held one handle and ambled down the sidewalk back home. I remember blowing through books like they were blurbs, and it seemed like nothing else existed as my eyes poured over page after page. 

But the library wasn’t the only place that satisfied my appetite for books.

Barnes & Noble — the store that held all my passions and desires. Every birthday, those blessed envelopes would come. Hiding in the folded masterpieces of colors and kind words were beloved gift cards to my holy place.

Everyone around me knew how much I loved reading, hence the annual deluge of gift cards, but after I started high school, it wasn’t long before my days as a bookworm were over. 

In high school I didn’t realize what I was losing by not continuing to read. I soon discovered that reading was part of what inspired me to write; it helped me learn new words or new ways to use words I already knew. I also lost patience. I used to devour books, reading for hours at a time, but now my attention span has drastically shortened because I became accustomed to focusing on a variety of assignments, extracurriculars and classes at the same time. 

Exploring my newfound passion for journalism and taking a litany of upper-level classes made it harder for me to find the time to read. As a frazzled student struggling to adjust to my new reality, I no longer had the energy to keep up with my favorite series or authors. As the workload got more intense with each year, my time spent reading significantly diminished. 

I thought I would have more time to read in college since I would be taking fewer classes, but the demanding courses and adjustment to a new environment wore me out again. Now I find myself longing to get back to where I was before the academic burnout, back to when I felt like I was disappearing into universes entirely different from our own. That’s why this summer I’ve been challenging myself to get back into reading. 

Everyone should nurture their reading ability because it can open so many doors. Without this pastime of mine, I don’t think I’d be able to write like I can today. But beyond honing skills, reading can stimulate your mind in a way few other activities can. It allows you to traverse the great worlds and complex narratives authors have thought up. 

I knew it wouldn’t be hard to start; those trusty Barnes & Noble gift cards allowed me to amass a modest personal library. I decided to start small with a personal favorite: “A Long Way From Chicago” by Richard Peck, whose witty writing never fails to make me laugh. 

I knew that this wasn’t something I could just turn on again — I needed practice. So I started small, because I knew that I would be discouraged if I attempted to read something denser. 

Since then I have made more progress, building my way back to being the voracious reader I was before. I went back to the library this week for the first time in what felt like years. I walked that half a mile once more and got my little stack of books. I made it back to the house just before it started raining — the perfect weather to curl up with a good book. 

Colin Crawford is a Medill freshman. He can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.