After all, what does it mean to be a good reader?

Is there an ideal number of pages that should be read in a year? Is it according to the number of classics you read? How many famous authors can you list? How many famous characters or lines can you memorize?

I remember that in the eighth grade of elementary school, in the first week of classes, the Portuguese teacher, when explaining how her classes would be, also gave four assignments for the whole year. Each work had to be delivered at the end of each bimester. She wrote on the board:

1 Bimester – 4 books
2 Bimester – 6 books
3 Bimester – 8 books
4 Bimester – 10 books

We had to read the books and write a summary in a specific notebook for that. Once a week we had a reading class, which we could go to the school library to borrow books, we were free to choose the book we wanted to read and the teacher was in the room reading with us. For the last assignment, I was very apprehensive, to be honest, I don’t remember if I managed to read 10 books in two months. The fact is that a seed was planted.

The first time I cried reading a book, I was in high school, “Amor de perdição” by Camilo Castelo Branco. I know the book may not even be worthy of tears, but for me, it was one of the first stories I really got involved in and I couldn’t put the book down.

I believe everyone has their own special book, for particular reasons, that make some logical or emotional sense, but once you find yourself flooded with such a real feeling it’s impossible not to want to relive the experience. 

Since then, I’ve asked for books on Christmas, birthdays, I took home the books my uncles didn’t have space to keep anymore. I met people who knew and read a lot more books than I did, I felt jealous (in a good way) to see how much they had already read, and I never knew if I could consider myself a good reader.

No matter how easy it is for me today to read a hundred-page book, my mind always goes back to the eighth grade when for the first time I had to read 28 books in a year. Naturally, when I became a Portuguese teacher, the first assignment I gave my students was to read a book every two months. I never asked them to read more than that, but it was always part of their grade and those who read on vacation started the following semester with an extra point. 

If I wasn’t a good reader I would at least influence my students to be better than me. I loaned my personal books, allowed them to read any book and that brought me closer to many of them, including those who forgot to return my book for months, or my student in tears wanting to return a book on my last day of school before leaving for China. 

I read the summary they wrote and I ended up “missing” some classes talking with students about books and movie adaptations. It was through one of these summaries and classes that I came across The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams, after the third summary I had to borrow the book and I can’t express how much I love this five-book trilogy.

I read books because my friends suggested it, I read about spiritualism, self-help when I thought I didn’t need help, romances, horror, science fiction, and realists to the point of frightening, but I was always honest about the books I hadn’t read. or didn’t like it. I remember that for a college entrance exam I had to read Macunaíma by Mário de Andrade, I swear I tried with all my strength, but I always ended up sleeping after half a page. 

In my second year of college, the teacher said we had to read Macunaíma, I started to suffer even before buying the book, not even the fact that I was not the only one unhappy with the task helped. A few classes later, the teacher, noticing the general discontent, decided to dedicate part of the class to explain that if we weren’t enjoying the book, it was because we were reading it the wrong way. 

Please understand, I was young and knew a lot less about life than I do now, but I hated the idea that to understand a book you have to understand the context of the time, the reasons the book was written, the intentions of the author behind the work and blah blah…still, I was wrong (“Elementary, my dear Watson!”). After the teacher, in the shortest possible way, explained the best way to read the book, I was able to laugh and wooed by the chaos the “hero” finds himself throughout the plot.

Because of college, I read many classics of Portuguese and Brazilian literature and, therefore, I don’t feel bad for having read a few classics of American or English literature, but I found time to read the entire Twilight saga, Harry Potter (not all of them), I love Dan Brown’s books and I read webtoons* daily. I don’t feel like less of a reader to those who read only literature recognized as good by half a dozen literary critics. I don’t think they are comparative works, because they have different purposes. 

Creating this blog and trying to write better than before, I have been trying to dedicate myself to reading more, after all, a good writer must read. I’ve been reading books of all styles and also trying to leave some time for classics. I’m finishing 1984 – George Orwell, and I confess that one question keeps pounding in my head: “Why do we want so many 17/18-year-olds to read such complex books?

They are definitely able to read the book, and with some help understanding all its meaning, but wouldn’t it be much more pertinent if they could read it later, with a little more life experience to understand certain details for themselves? Form their own opinion instead of having to accept a critic’s opinion for not understanding the book in its complexity? I try to imagine myself at 17 and I’m sure I wouldn’t have the same interpretation as today and maybe I’d be sleeping every half-page read. 

Here’s what I believe. A good reader is one who can extract something from what he reads, regardless of whether it meets the author’s proposal. The ideal reader is one who will finish a book and will not want to start another one because they still need to reflect on the book they have just read or say goodbye to the characters and story they have just read. Regardless of the quantity, they will value every moment they have to read and will know how to value the creativity and work of the writer.

*Webtoons, for those who don’t know, is an application that can be downloaded for free on your cell phone and contains comics published daily, there are different genres, created by authors from various countries around the world, and the most popular are translated into other languages.

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