Why is it so difficult to nurture yourself to have a habit in reading English books as an ESL (English as a Second Language) learner? This may sound like a very simple question to native English speakers, but for ESL learners who never had the opportunity to study overseas or in a native English-speaking environment, nurturing yourself to have a habit in reading English books seems to be extremely difficult to do. However, as ESL learners, whenever we see these brand new English books looking attractive in the bookstore, we tend to end up buying them because we think that would read them in our spare time. In fact, I have heard so many times in my life that we English learners like to buy books, but not read them, which makes it seem like nurturing yourself to have a habit in reading books is actually not a simple matter. After all, why would anyone want to buy books and not read them? So to answer this question that is somewhat like a conundrum, I would like to share a personal story with everyone.
I remember when I first moved to Canada at the age of 7, when I could barely speak English, my family always brought me to a shopping mall where there’s usually a bookstore that I could hang around in, while my parents finished buying the groceries. Goosebumps books by R.L. Stine were very popular at that time, and since the kids at my school liked to read them, I always got my parents to buy me one Goosebumps book every month or so. However, every time I got a new Goosebumps book, I usually just finished the first or second chapter, then told my parents that I finished it, so I could get a new one. Now that I look back to it, I laugh hysterically and think, “Why was I like that? I just don’t understand my behaviour in childhood at all.” But it seems as though I really loved the covers of Goosebumps books and the smell of brand new books! They always had nice artwork and bumpy designs on their covers so they just felt irresistable to touch and feel with my fingers!
Years later when I went back to Toronto for university, I had a good laugh at the pile of Goosebumps books still sitting on my bookshelf at my grandparent’s home. I took out one Goosebumps book and read a few chapters, then realized that the stories weren’t all that cool and amazing, even though it was cool to see all those English words come alive. Back in those days as a kid of age 9 or 10, it just came across to me that Goosebumps books were very cool because every kid in my class thought the same way, which can be understood as a kind of fashion trend that was somewhat contagious. This may sound silly and laughable, but don’t people also have the same kind of behaviour with smartphones nowadays? For example, in addition to getting a good smartphone, everybody now wants a smartphone protective case that is durable and chic-looking.
So what is the solution to this problem? On one hand, we certainly need good educators and teachers to nurture our reading habits. But on the other hand, we need to be aware of the distractions that are affecting us in our daily lives, especially now that we have transitioned to a world where technology is ubiquitous. These distractions may be affecting us without us knowing, but if we keep finding ourselves procrastinating and not doing anything useful, then that is definitely the result of distractions affecting us severely. You may think I sound like your grandpa, but I’m here to tell you one important thing: “Stop looking at your cellphone and watch where you’re going!” But of course, I’m not really your grandpa.