Travel Reading

Waiting on the platform at Times Square, the children plotted how to score a coveted rush-hour seat, planning who would sit on whose lap if the options were scarce. Hands were held tight, and two of the youngest girls rested their heads against each other’s for a moment.

As the train pulled into 42nd Street, Jesus Figueroa, a Tremont counselor for six summers, readied the campers to board: “Get your books ready.” An explosion of titles — “Jig and Mag,” “A Rose, a Bridge, and a Wild Black Horse,” “The Kid Who Invented the Popsicle” — were pulled from backpacks.

According to a church rule, Tremont campers must read whenever they win a seat on the subway. Each day, campers select a book from the church library or bring one from home. They practice reading in short increments — 20 minutes here and there — and keep reading journals to document their progress.

“The books keep them occupied while they ride and help them stay on point with their reading skills,” said Mr. Figueroa, 20.

On the train, even campers who had to stand took to their books. An 8-year-old named Christopher used both hands to hold “Time Together,” supporting himself by twisting one of his black Nike Shox around the pole behind him. Next to him was Steven, also 8, who cracked open “50 Simple Things Kids Can Do to Save the Earth” with one hand and held on to a counselor with the other.

Kudos to the Tremont adults for coming up with a very clever way to get their young charges into a subway reading habit!  The above is one of many vignettes in a recent New York Times article, “The Joy of Reading in the Subway.”   I’m more of a bus rider myself (my daily commute takes me around Central Park), but whether bus or subway, I’ve long been fascinated by what people on all forms of transportations read.  And since I’m a teacher I’m often traveling at the same time as a lot of kids. In the morning many are doing homework.  Coming home the older ones are chattering with each other, texting, etc, but younger ones are often reading and sometimes I see adults reading to them.

As for adults I travel with, maybe it is the time of day and routes I travel, but I see a lot of folks reading scriptures of one sort or another.  I see adults not reading, listening to music (loud music that bleeds out), correcting papers (those teachers), or reading work material.  I go by way of a big hospital and many folks get on with files and articles related to medicine.  Not too many are reading recreationally, I’m afraid.

I’m curious — what about other places with public transportation?  Are they also reading and, if so, what?  Or are more listening?  Perhaps simply dreaming, something I tend to do myself as I look out the window at the changing seasons in Central Park.


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6 responses to “Travel Reading

  1. Reader’s Advisory Online blog has a regular feature Planes, Trains and Lanes.


  2. I never leave home without a book. I also like ot have audio books on my MP3 player!!!!


  3. I find I get very ‘phobic’ on crowded trains, so must have a book with me even if it’s for just five minutes. Reading takes my mind off the crush. I will also stand reading on the platform waiting for the train. Makes them come sooner, or it feels that way.


  4. I tend to do tallies in my head as I ride the metro in DC and as I am take planes….I find many stewardesses read scriptures with second runner up USA TODAY. On the metro I find heavy reading vying with religious materials of all persuasions. And like one person commenting above, I can’t step out of the house without a book in my bag!


  5. I loved this section of the article as well – it made me so thrilled to be involved with kids and books.

    I get a lot of the Scripture readers as well, riding the F train into Manhattan. Mostly Metro readers. Lots of sleepers. A few recreational readers.

    When I rode the train out to Jamaica every morning, I would frequently get into the same car with a mother and son (he looked about 10 years old), and she would read out loud to him….I watched them work their way through the Chronicles of Narnia. Wonderful.


  6. Ooh, someone was reading what was clearly a book/paper/dissertation thing on her Blackberry this morning on the subway. It annoyed me endlessly that I couldn’t see it. What are you reading! What does the cover look like! What language is it! How many pages is it!



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