I love popcorn. Especially, I love movie theater popcorn. It's horrible. I can't go to a movie without wanting it. I'm sure that's what the theater wants, too, and that smell is sooo... intoxicating. I used to not be able to go to the movies without buying popcorn. Of course, movies were cheaper then. The popcorn was cheaper, too.
It wasn't really the money that made me quit buying popcorn all the time, though; it was my kids. Okay, it was the money, too, but, really, it was my kids. I mean, it's one thing for me to make the decision to put all that crap into my own body, but, back when we used to actually do (almost) a weekly movie during the summers, I didn't think I needed to put all that crap into my kids bodies, too. Even if they did enjoy it and want it.
Still enjoy it and want it.
The thing with popcorn is that it's so easy to just keep eating and eating it. Handfuls at a time. Don't give me a large bag of popcorn to hold at the theater and expect to get some. I will eat it all. You'll reach over to get some, and it will be gone. All of it. Well, there'll probably be a few loose kernels in the bottom of the bag. I won't have meant to have eaten it all, it will have just happened. The same goes for the lesser microwave popcorn at home. I will eat it. I might not even feel bad afterward.
Sugar is the same way. Things with sugar in them, anyway. It's so easy to sit down with a bag of, say, peanut butter cups and eat the whole thing without realizing it. And it makes you want more and more of it.
Eating junk makes you want to eat more junk. That's the way it's designed. Even when we know it's bad for us, we want to eat it anyway. I mean, it's been... well, it's been years since I've had a soda, but, sometimes, I still want one. And I think one can't be that bad, right? It's been years since I had one, so what could it hurt? But that will just make me want more and more. Once I re-acclimate myself to it, that is. Because, actually, having been off of sugar for so long means that anything that has any sugar in it at all is usually way too sweet for me.
The thing is, though, if you give people the option between something that's good for them and something that's bad for them, they'll usually pick the thing that's bad for them. Well, assuming it tastes good. I was certainly that way when I was a kid, which is why I grew up on soda. My kids are no different. They want to eat crap all the time. Even though we don't keep sweets and treats in the house and have a habit of not eating that way, they ask for things every single day. Every single day. EVERY SINGLE DAY! And it drives us crazy every night! NO! WE ARE NOT GOING OUT FOR ICE CREAM! NO! WE ARE NOT GOING TO SIFT FOR CUPCAKES! Why do you keep asking that when you get the same answer every day?! Oh! My! Gosh!
People, especially kids, don't have the ability to look at their food choices objectively and weigh the advantages and the disadvantages and choose accordingly. Mostly, because they can't see what the disadvantages are. Or choose not to see them. Most people respond to things the same way my younger boy responds to food:
"Yum, this is full of sugar and carbs; this is awesome!" [Even though it's objectively bad for him.]
"Yuck! That's green and leafy and disgusting!" [Even though it's good for him.]
However, if you work with the things that are good for you, eventually, you will like them. And I know, because I grew up hating broccoli and yams, hating them with a passion (at one point, I think I vowed to my mother that I would never EVER eat broccoli), but those are two of my favorite foods now. And my younger son also likes yams, now, because we kept making him eat them.
The real issue is that you have to train yourself to like the things that are good for you. And it's not easy. I grew up with a cook for a mother. A southern cook. Let me just tell you right now that the southern diet is not the most healthy in the world. Even the things in it that are good for you are cooked in such a way as to not be good for you. They'll boil the nutrients right out of anything. And, if it can't be boiled, they'll batter it and fry it. Or, you know, throw sugar all over it. Want to eat strawberries in the south? Cut them up and toss sugar on them. Why? It's already fruit; it doesn't need sugar. But that's how I ate strawberries when I was a kid. And why eat broccoli when there was fried okra as an option (and the okra smelled so much better!)?
At some point, though, you have to look at what you're putting in your body and say, "Is this good for me?" If the answer is "no," you have to train yourself into a different behavior set. And, no, I can't tell you how to do that. You have to figure that out for yourself.
Of course, I'm not really talking about food here. I mean, I am talking about food, but I'm also talking about books. Of course, I'm not the first to compare books to food. I'm probably not even the first to compare junk food to junk books. At any rate, just like most people (in the US, at least) spend way too much time eating junk food, most people that read (because most people actually do not read) spend way too much time reading junk books. Popcorn books.
A lot of people would say, "but at least they're reading something," and I almost agree with that. Except that saying that would be like saying of an adult that was still eating baby food, "well, at least, s/he's eating something." Yeah, I know it's not the same, but it kind of is.
See, I know some people that like to brag about how many books they read. And, yes, they read a lot of books. A couple of them read, like, 250 books a year. But they're all the same kind of book (and I'm not gonna say what kind that is), and they amount to popcorn. At least, that's how I visual it. All pretty much the same with very little substance. Not challenging. Not anything.
So when someone says, "at least, they're reading;" I think, "I'm not so sure about that."
I don't have a problem with reading for pleasure. Reading is great, and reading should be enjoyable. I also think reading should prompt us to think and, hopefully, to grow. The occasional treat is fine, but you really shouldn't try to live off of them (treats), just like you shouldn't use McDonald's as your dietary staple. Okay, McDonald's is trying to reform a little, so we'll go with Burger King. [Actually, it's been so long since I ate at either of those places, I don't know how they are.]
Other than observing people that just read the equivalent of literary junk food all the time, it's my own kids that got me thinking about this. Just like not letting them have popcorn all the time, I can't let them read easy, non-challenging books all the time.
When I was a kid, I didn't have anyone to help me navigate books. My family does not read. I stumbled my way through on Hardy Boys and stuff I could pick up at school until I started having things assigned to me, and, even then, in my head there was a differentiation between what I read on my own and what I was assigned at school. It didn't matter that I liked the books I was being assigned at school; they were still a different category, so I spent my time otherwise reading literary junk. It wasn't until my junior year of high school that I figured out that I could explore "real" literature on my own. Of course, by that time, I'd wasted seven years of reading on (mostly) popcorn.
I don't want my kids to do that. Not that I force them to read anything, but I do make suggestions.
There's nothing wrong with reading the occasional piece of fluff. It's nice to have a mental break from thinking from time to time. It's something else entirely to devote yourself to only mental fluff. It makes it difficult to recognize something that is actually, really, good, because it's too challenging to get into. Everyone should challenge themselves to grow as readers. To start reading, to read more broadly, to read more deeply. Learn to like your broccoli and yams. I did.