I have met many wonderful young readers over the last few weeks, but two stand out in my mind. One girl came bearing her copy of The Girl Who Brought Mischief. The book looked brand new - shiny cover, spine uncracked, corners perfectly sharp. It might just as well have been lifted straight off the press. It had, however, been read six times. Six times! This gorgeous girl loves reading but also loves keeping her books in mint condition. I was incredibly moved to think that a child valued books so highly.
Another girl came bearing all three Red Dirt Diaries. They looked like they had been trampled by a herd of hippos with unusually muddy feet, then stuffed into a saddlebag with unwrapped chocolate and carried across the Sahara Desert by camel before being dropped into a water trough and laid out on a cactus to dry in the blustering wind. This girl said she reads through all three Red Dirt Diaries from beginning to end, then starts straight back at the beginning again. I was, once again, incredibly moved, to see such enjoyment taken in a familiar story. Also a case of books being highly valued.
These two very different book owners both love stories and reading, but in their own special way.
This made me think what a diverse group we readers are. Not just in our taste but in the many habits that surround our reading times. Books are a serious matter, so I thought it was time that someone tried to name and classify at least some of the types of readers in our world. (Please note that all readers are created equal and all classifications are non-judgemental)
The Ditto - The Ditto is a repeat reader, one who loves to read beloved books over and over again. They become so familiar with the characters and plot that there are absolutely no surprises left, but they love returning to certain books because they are JUST SO DARNED GOOD.
The Rocket - The Rocket races through books at a cracking pace because, for them, quantity equals joy. They are the hot chip scoffers of the reading world.
The Wallower - The Wallower likes to meander and loll about in the pages of a book, taking as long as she needs to absorb the delights of language, to reread moving passages, to mark favourite bits in pencil, to ponder the pages in a bubble bath, to imagine what she would do if caught up in this fictional situation, to draw parallels between this story and another favourite, to sigh, to nibble chocolate every time a certain word is used, to act out parts with different voices … You get the drift. A Wallower's book can look a little world weary - cocoa stained, water damaged, scrunched, mauled - but these are scars of honour, the proof that a book is the bee's knees.
The Squirrel - The Squirrel stores her books away in specially made shelves and sees them as an essential item for survival, much as a real squirrel views her store of acorns as a harsh winter approaches.
The Thief - The Thief scans through a book, reading snippets here and there - just enough to make sense of a story. Details are for the birds!
The Sneak - The Sneak reads the end of the story first to make sure it is a good one and worth the effort of wading through entire book.
The Sea Cucumber - The Sea Cucumber doesn't read at all. She can read, but isn’t interested. She’d rather watch a movie, take a nap or eat slime off the bottom of a rock pool.
The Hamster - The Hamster reads the same genre all the time - historical romance, murder, dystopia, stories about ponies with pink manes and ambitions to run in the Melbourne Cup someday … They pick one theme and run with it, much like a hamster on a wheel.
The Slave - The Slave is one who reads only because they have to - for school or work … or to find out what’s on TV.
The Vortex - The Vortex reads anything and everything - novels, biographies, dictionaries, magazines, web pages, emergency procedure charts in hotel rooms, nutritional information on cereal boxes, tattoos on peoples’ knuckles as they approach their nose …
The Polar Bear - the Polar Bear reads seasonally. She will go for months, even years, without reading a single thing, then hibernate beneath her doona for days on end to devour an exciting book. She usually emerges hungry and grumpy, with bad hair. Toss her a chocolate bar then hide until she has fully awakened to real life again.
This is just the beginning. Feel free to add any new categories that you feel are important.
I am a Wallower and a Ditto and a Squirrel - what we in the Reader Classification profession would call a Wallowing Ditt-squirrel.
What kind of reader are you, I wonder?