Our Reading Lives

Secret Benefits of Being Raised By a Non-Reader

Patricia Thang

Senior Contributor

Patricia Thang is an educator located in Los Angeles. Though a native Angeleno through and through, her heart also belongs to Tokyo, where much of her family is from. Besides books, she is an enthusiastic devourer of many things, including podcasts, television, and J-pop. She realizes there’s not enough time in the world to consume all of that content, but she’s trying anyway. Other endeavors to which she has dedicated herself include cuddling her dogs until they’re annoyed and taste-testing every vegan ice cream she can find. Twitter: @aintnopthang

My mom hates reading. Always has, always will. For her, reading a magazine once in a blue moon is more than enough. On the other hand, I was constantly reading growing up, particularly as a teenager. And when I say “constantly,” I mean that I would wake up and start reading and continue to read while eating, while in class, and even while walking around so long as it didn’t involve crossing the street. As one might guess, my mom and I would clash from time to time on this front. I would get in trouble for “not paying attention” to what was going on around me, and in response I would snap that she was “lucky I’m just reading and not doing drugs.”

That being said, looking back on my childhood with my mom, I have come to realize that our unique relationship to books and each other was not all disagreements and criticism. Here are a few secret benefits that I have experienced by being raised by a non-reader.

1. I was raised deliberately to be a book lover

I know this sounds pretty counter-intuitive, but it was only because my mom so dislikes reading that she was able to make the conscious effort to raise me to be different. She didn’t want me to be the type of kid that she was, the type who never read the assigned books for school, who hated language and wasn’t good with words. Because of that, she admirably put aside her own beliefs and would read to me and buy me books when I was young, showing me how my life could be enriched by these wonderful treasures. Unfortunately, this might have worked a little too well, hence our conflicts later on.

2. My book-buying habits are economical
For a book lover, I’ve always considered myself on the conservative side in terms of my buying habits and the number of books on my shelves. Once I was a teenager and began earning my own money by pet-sitting (I was the neighborhood animal whisperer, but that’s another story), my mom refused to contribute another cent to my reading habit. Even when I bought books with my own money, she would look on disapprovingly, as she believed it to be wasteful spending. Eventually, I developed a three-pronged approach to avoiding my mom’s reaction to my walking into the house with new books. First, I didn’t buy them often. Second, I learned to be frugal when I did and only shopped sales, went to used bookstores, etc. Third, I began smuggling my new books into the house like contraband. The first two parts of this book-buying strategy continue to this day, with the third just lingering as a funny memory of my “rebellious phase.”

3. My reading was never censored
My mom, having no idea what any book I had was about, and unwilling to familiarize herself with them, had absolutely no control over what I chose to read as a kid. She would blindly buy the books I picked out until I was old enough to buy my own, at which point she would rarely even lay eyes on my choices. I know some people might not agree, but I fully believe that only good came out of my uncensored reading experience growing up. Sure, I read plenty of books that I was way too young to understand, that were borderline inappropriate for my age, but the fact that I had the freedom to read an infinitely wide range of books helped to shape me into a mature and open-minded reader and person.

My mom and I may have our differences when it comes to our opinions on books, but I don’t hold it against her in the slightest. Because of her, I was able to become the book-lover that I am today, and for that I will be forever grateful.