On Reading versus TV

I read this great blog this morning, by Jessica Woodbury, the “7 Habits of Highly Effective Readers”, that got me thinking.

Much like Woodbury says in the opening lines to her blog, I get asked all the time, rather incredulously, “where do you find the time to read?”  Yet, several years ago when I was binge watching Television series on Netflix discs, the only person who asked me “where do you find time to watch <all that garbage>?” was my dad.  My retired dad, who stayed home most of the day, and preferred reading and tinkering to sitting and watching television.  I feel like my dad was trying to impart some wisdom upon me that I did not “get” until after he passed.

I think Daddy was expressing his cynical view that television has taken over so much of our lives.  I did not agree back then – I was discovering the wonder of British telly thanks to Netflix, and so even though I read, I did not read as much as I do now.  I truly realized what Daddy was saying after he passed away and I started college again, and frankly had time to either read or watch TV, and reading won out, hands down.  After Netflix offered the option of cancelling the disc portion of our plan, I cancelled it gleefully, because my discs had been piling up for weeks at a time.  I have never had DVR and do not even have cable any longer.

Well, and these anti-TV habits make me even more of a freak than my compulsive reading habits.  Because, the societal norm that has been in place since at least the 70’s is, the family comes home, you sit in front of the television together, and then you go to bed.  Reading is not a family activity, but television watching is.  But….television watching really isn’t, is it?  Think of CSI, Criminal Minds, True Blood, Game of Thrones…are those “family” shows?  No, so how do people with children find the time to watch these things?  I watch Game of Thrones (on disc, btw) while working out…behind a closed door.

Now, reading…I can read an adult book like Martin’s GoT series while sitting on the couch with my wee lass.  I do not have to worry about her seeing some body part that would embarrass us both, and because our tastes are truly different, really do not have to worry about her sneaking many of my adult books to read.  (I did that to my mom’s books – I was reading Lace, Lace II, Jackie Collins, Danielle Steele and so on in sixth grade.  Always a fast reader, I could speed through these books without mom ever being the wiser.  True, there were a LOT of scenes I did not get…but I finally do).

Too late for my Daddy to see it, I have become something of a snob about television watching.  About the only day I will “watch” TV is on Sundays, it’s usually a British series (currently “As Time Goes By” on Amazon) and I am steadily reading the whole way through.  I fear we are rotting our brains with so much TV, which is a completely different stance than the one I had years ago.  I fear that TV habits are part of what causes the “brain inactivity” associated with diseases such as Alzheimer’s, since studies have shown that keeping your brain active can help stave off that terrible disease.

So, even though I am, by nature, polite and diplomatic, the next time someone asks me “when DO you find the time to read?” I think my answer is going to be…”turn off your TV and find out.”


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