Become Happier by Rereading Your Favorite Childhood Books

Until recently, I have not finished reading the book since the end of January. In that sense, I’m not unusual – a 2018 Pew Research Group study found that 24 percent of Americans hadn’t read all or even part of a book in the 12 months before, but this is very unusual. for me , a person who advertises nine years of completed reading tasks on their Goodreads profile (with an average annual goal of 75 books). The reasons why 24% of people don’t read are varied, unclear and in some cases worrisome (e-distraction is one thing, the link between poverty and literacy is quite another). But my own reasons for rejecting my last reading on page 140 are perfectly clear and can be broadly grouped under the “coronavirus pandemic”: I no longer have commutes, and it turns out that I read best on the subway. Forget about reading during lunch breaks; now i eat with children. In the evenings? It’s time to scroll fate ! With book sales booming and less distracted readers eagerly scrolling through their reading lists, I couldn’t focus on anything longer than the latest harrowing essay in The Atlantic .

That is, until recently. I skipped reading – one of the main ways to relax, let alone stay connected with the community of readers and authors I interacted with online – but I finally found an effective way to get back to it. As with many things that have happened to me since March, my children are to blame.

When I say that I haven’t finished reading the book for several months, this is not entirely true: I finished some of them that I read aloud to my 8-year-old daughter. We read together for 15 or 20 minutes every night and have flipped through tons of books since the blackout started. And as we read together, I noticed that I was itching again from the desire for another page – but never more than when I shared with her a book that I loved as a child:“Borrowers ” by Mary Norton, ” Matilda ” by Roald Dahl , James and Deborah Howe’s Bunniculum , so I decided to say goodbye to the thick new fantasy tome I had been reading all those months ago and grab an old favorite: Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, a book I loved as a kid. And suddenly, freed from having to follow the story and characters I was unfamiliar with, I found myself free to read again. I went through the book in a few days. Everything went so well that I moved on to another DWJ favorite, Charmed Life . It might be a “read Diana Wynne Jones” ploy, but I think it’s more general: by revisiting a book from my childhood, I make reading soothing, replete with nostalgia, and as easy as possible. I already know that I love this story – research has shown that audiences really enjoy storytelling when they know exactly what is going to happen – and there are other benefits, and not just in terms of reading comprehension.

In her book On Rereading , Patricia Meyer Spax notes that “the stability of re-read books helps create a lasting sense of self … it captures both development and continuity of the individual.” That is: the book remains the same, but the reader (you) is completely different. I noticed this when I was reading Beverly Cleary’s novels about Ramona to my daughter: as writer and writer Stephanie Luchanovic noted in her own rereading , they are riddled with hidden economic anxiety as Ramona’s father struggles to keep his job and start his own business. new career. Of course, it never logged when I read them to shreds as a child. In The Atlantic, Emma Court also writes about the unexpected benefits of re-reading old backups:

… revisiting [children of love] in adulthood can also provide comfort, relaxation and enjoyment of new discoveries. Those who re-read not only rediscover history, but can also rediscover themselves.

Rereading “reminds us that we can experience something intensely and not see everything at the same time. Going back, we see something different, ”says Jill Campbell, professor of English at Yale University. “It’s a way to think more about a book that has influenced you, but it’s also a way to think about your own life, memories and experiences. Continuity and Differences ”.

Especially now, in times of strife, these differences can be especially enlightening and comforting. A retreat to the known and safe may be what you need when you pick up the book right now. So if you find yourself unable to complete “serious” adult work – or even frivolous work – allow yourself to read well below your level . Life is too short to read bad books, and even more so not to read them at all. This post has been updated since publication to add additional details, including a quote from The Atlantic.

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