What It Means To Call Yourself A Reader

Once upon a time, being a reader meant that you read books. But the internet and smartphones are blurring that distinction. Are you a reader if you look at ten or more articles a day, even if they’re just via Facebook? Are you a reader if you subscribe to several blogs? Are you a reader if you keep an e-book loaded on your Kindle app, but haven’t been to a brick-and-mortar library in years? In our obsession with quantifying growth, does it matter how many books you read per year, or whether you always know which book to read next?

I’ve been a reader far longer than I’ve been a writer, a teacher, or anything else on my personal resume. But I’ve never stopped to think about why, or what that means. How do I identify as a reader?

How does anyone identify as anything?

Do I call myself a runner if I enjoy running and make it part of my daily schedule, but have no desire to run a race?

Do I call myself a cook if I look forward to cooking for my family, but have never taken a cooking class?

Do I call myself a writer if I’m not published?

The answer to all of those questions is YES. You can identify with anything as long as it’s important to you. You can claim a religion, or not. You can claim a hobby, or not. You can even claim a career (although you’ll probably also need the career to claim you).

“Reader” is an easier title to claim than most. There are no awards for book-reading, no race to see who reads the fastest, and no classes to take beyond your initial elementary school learning. Maybe that’s why so many people identify as readers: it’s a skill we’ve all been given, thanks to mandatory education, and an easy habit to cultivate.

Reader Identity

Cultivating my reading identity means that I always have a book to read. In the most optimal of situations, I have a great book or two on my Kindle, one on my phone, one on the Audible app, and maybe a paperback. I know other people who immerse themselves in one book only. I know people who mostly read on the go, and people who only read in bed at night. Some go through a hundred books a year, some read ten. All of these people are readers.

What are your reasons for calling yourself a reader? What does your reading life look like?

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2 Responses to “What It Means To Call Yourself A Reader”

  1. I’m a reader because I read, just like I’m a writer because I write (even when my work is rejected for publication). This post made me think of my dental hygienist–we always talk about books and recommend them to each other when I come in for my check-ups, and she does most of her reading via audio books. Does that make her a reader? I think so. It’s not my preferred method of getting the goodness of books inside me, but it works for her.

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