Never Judge A Reader By The Cover

We’re not supposed to like reading.
We’re not supposed to like writing.
We appear to be big, dumb jocks.
We look somewhat scary.
We act somewhat scary.
We get tagged as Neanderthals.
From our look, we are
supposed to like certain things,
do certain things,
and act a particular way.
Because of the way we look,
we are judged at first glance,
judged to a stereotype.

As a kid, I was a husky, could-not-sit-still introvert, slow-developing reader of a boy. Without a tremendous amount of help and patience from the adults in my young academic life, I may never have grown up a reader. I liked the library, though. I liked to graze the shelves looking at the book spines, book covers and flipping through the pictures. I am a more accomplished reader now, but
roaming and searching the book stacks is still a favorite activity of mine.

One of the earliest memories of being completely, totally PO’d in life was when I was about six or seven and my onerous older brother told the librarian I  lied and didn’t read all of the four or five books (a major accomplishment for me at the time) I’d listed on my summer reading program sheet. I remember the sheet vividly, it had a drawing of a genie riding a magic carpet on the top and blank lines for what seems like 50 books. I was so proud of the first several lines of that sheet being filled in. I was a reader.

I will never forget the look the librarian gave me when she thought I had cheated and handed me back my sheet. She jumped to the conclusion this big, little kid standing on the other side of her desk was a cheater, not a reader. I was so embarrassed and so mad as my first real reading success melted right before my eyes, I crumpled into a ball on the library floor and had to be dragged out wailing and screaming.

I would like to offer an invitation to everyone who has ever swum upstream against the current of stereotype. An invitation to celebrate a love of books and literature despite how we look or act, especially those of us “Neanderthals” who like to read middle-grade literature.

I fall into the category of dumb jock stereotype. I guess a big, football lineman-type, sport-crazy athlete, and coach, with a somewhat scary visage that often makes little kids cry, cannot also be an intellectually driven, reader and writer of literature. People look at people like me and naturally think, “He’s a Neanderthal.”

  • Maybe it’s the truck driver looks? (Which, by the way, was the Hollywood descriptor of my extras casting photo when I was given a part as an extra in a movie back in my college days.)
  • Maybe it’s the occasional ranting and raving?
  • Maybe it’s the Kansas twang of my dialect or the silent “g” in “-ing”?
  • Maybe it’s the smile or the scowl which split time on my face?

To celebrate the fight against this stereotype, I invite you to join me in a little Twitter fun and Tweet what you are currently reading. Inspired by one of my favorite comic book heroes, The Incredible Hulk, I celebrate reading and literature every Wednesday by tweeting the book(s) I am currently reading under the hashtag, #MeReadBook. If there is also an audio-book in the mix, that title is tweeted under the hashtag, #MeHearBook.

Celebrate reading and celebrate readers—whatever they look or sound like.

Above all else, pass the word.

Never judge a book (or a reader) by the cover.

Major Writers of America pic

Mike Hays on Facebook
Mike Hays
Mike Hays has worked hard from a young age to be a well-rounded individual. A well-rounded sports enthusiasts, that is. If they keep a score, he’ll either watch it, play it, or coach it. A molecular microbiologist by day, middle-grade author, sports coach, and general good citizen by night, he blogs about sports related topics at and writer stuff at He can often be found roaming the Twitter-sphere under the guise of @coachhays64.
  1. YES! Reading in any and all forms is the ultimate form of bonding with your child spiritually and linguistically.

  2. I hate for your brother. I hope you never, ever forgave him because what he did was unforgivable. Okay, maybe it’s all right to forgive him now, but only if you don’t hurt when you tell that story. Thanks for passing the word and for sharing your story here.

    • Rosi – I probably forgave him ten minutes after getting home from the library that day when I needed somebody to play baseball with.

      Best news of all is he actually became a reader himself when he was in his 20’s. More evidence there is hope for everybody to enjoy the gift of reading.

      Thank you for reading this post.