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July 05, 2023

It’s Never Too Late to Become a Reader

By Rafia Khader

2023 is the year of stories at Hamilton East Public Library. Every month on our blog, we’re featuring a guest writer from our community to share in their own words what the library means to them. We hope these stories will demonstrate that there’s something for everyone at the library, and you belong here. 

Our July library story speaks about discovering a love for reading in adulthood and finding the books right for you at the library.

After discovering my love for reading, I traveled to various libraries across the world! This is a picture from New York City Central Library.

“I wasn’t much of a reader as a child. I read for school, of course, but that was it. Once my homework was done, the last thing I wanted to do was read for “fun.” Read for fun? Reading isn’t fun! Reading was something that had to be done to get good grades. However, I always viewed the “readers” I knew with such curiosity and perhaps even some envy. They were always so absorbed in their latest novel. They read on the bus on the way to school. They read in between classes. They read on the bus going back home. I never understood it.

To many people who know me today, that may come as a surprise. Because today, I’m always reading. I visit the library at least two times a week. At any given moment, I have at least three books checked out (with more placed on hold). When I’m not working, sleeping, or eating, I am reading! And sometimes I read during those activities as well 😉

Give Yourself Permission

Children’s section of Kansas City Public Library

While I didn’t always love reading, I always loved learning. I guess you could say I became a “reader” after I got married, almost by happenstance. It was January of 2016. I had just moved to Indiana from Illinois. I didn’t know anyone in the area, and I was working part-time remotely. Suffice it to say, I had a lot of free time on my hands. Since I lived so close to the Fishers Library, I decided to check it out one day. “Now that I’m done with school, maybe I can finally tackle some Tolstoy,” I told myself. But again, I found myself having the same thoughts I had in high school. I’m sure War & Peace is a great story, but I just couldn’t get past the first few hundred pages. With some reluctance, I decided to return the book without finishing it and checked out another book. And then another one. And then another one after that. It took some time for me to realize – and accept – that I really don’t enjoy reading fiction. All those years, I was forcing myself to read the books my peers read or books that I “should” read. But when I gave myself permission to venture out into the world of non-fiction, I realized I was a reader all along. I just needed to find the right kind of book for me!

So, if you are like I once was, wanting to read, wishing you could enjoy it, but struggling to finish the book you started months ago, embarrassed to admit that reading may not be your “thing,” maybe what you need to do is venture outside of your comfort zone.

What I love about the library is that you don’t have to finish a book if you don’t like it. It was difficult for me at first. But the more I read, the more I came to accept that some books are just not for me. And that’s okay. I can return it without any guilt attached to it. The library wants you to return the book!

Discover Something New

Library of Celsus in Ephesus, Turkey

While initially, I was a bit dismayed that the public library didn’t have the usual tomes I was used to reading in grad school, I came to appreciate the books that they did have. Just because the subtitles didn’t contain academic jargon like “intertextuality” or “liminality” didn’t mean there wasn’t more for me to learn. I’ve learned quite a bit from the books I’ve checked out from the library. It was like I was in school again, learning and being amazed by the world, but without any of the assignments or tests! And it’s all free!

From Sacred Liberty: America’s Long, Bloody, and Ongoing Struggle for Religious Freedom, which touches on my academic interest in religion and history, to Life Is a Marathon: A Memoir of Love and Endurance, which spoke to me as a runner, to Permanent Distortion: How the Financial Markets Abandoned the Real Economy Forever, which underscores the importance of understanding global finance and its impact on our lives… These are books I may not have otherwise read if it were not for the library. But I learned so much from them.

And that curiosity inspired even more curiosity. What other gems would I find, simply through browsing the stacks and taking a chance?

The Library is Something Truly Special

Library of Congress in Washington D.C.

The library is a wellspring of knowledge. Even with the books that I don’t enjoy, I learn something new. In the least, I learn what I don’t like or have much interest in. And that too is beneficial.

In the seven and a half years I have been an avid reader, I have grown to really appreciate the library and all that it offers. Each time I step inside its doors, I feel excited about the potentiality. Browsing through the stacks. Reading the book jacket. Deciding to take a chance on a book because it just feels right in that moment. That feeling will never get old. When I’m at the library, I really do feel like a kid in a candy store. I want all the books!

At 36 years of age, I think I finally understand what my grade school “reader” classmates knew at such a young age. It took me a while to get here, but I am so grateful I finally did. ”

About Rafia Khader:

Rafia Khader is a Program Manager at LaunchGood, a crowdfunding platform built by Muslims to serve the global Muslim community. In her spare time, she can be found reading, writing (she has two blogs: The Ruminant and Rafia Reads), and spending time in nature – whether it’s walking, road running, or trail running. She also loves cows and chocolate cake! A resident of the state of Indiana since 2016, she lived in Hamilton County from January 2016 to November 2016 and moved back to Hamilton County again in June 2022.

Have your own library story to share? Tell us about it here, and we’ll pick a few to be featured on our blog! You can also find storytelling resources and tips here

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