Are you a reader? or simply literate?

Reading the post of a friend the other day who was lamenting the demise of books and reading I was struck by a similar and much related thought. In this day and age of fast foods, instant gratification, flash movies and mindless television few people read (the words) and even fewer READ the story.

When I was growing up TV was black and white and where I lived we got two stations, CBC and CTV. My kids call it the black and white days. A large part of our (or mine at least) entertainment came from books. I read everything that had pages when I was a kid and carry on to this day. Sure I attend movies now and then and watch a few shows a week on the tube but still to this day one of my greatest sources of entertainment is a great book. You see I am one of those strange people who READ a book not just read it.

Let me explain what I mean. In school they teach you to read the words, you learn the grammar, the punctuation, the prenunciation and all the other mechanics of the language. If you take a literary course, they take books, stories and prose and dissect them in minute detail, analyzing every word and every nuance until the story is all but lost.

When I read a book, the words transport me away from this world to any of a thousand million other worlds. I can be traveling in time to hunt t’rexs (mindful of the butterflies!), sailing on a ship round Cape Horn, flying through the farthest reaches of space. I don’t need television, CGI graphics, Panavision or any other technical wizardry, my imagination provides all that’s necessary and the author weaves the magic in words. A great story by Ray Bradbury, Jules Verne or Nicholas Monseratt is much more vivi, exciting and moving than any movie or television could ever be. A great many people who read, do not actually read the story, do become immersed in the book, feelin, living, breathing the story. I do, when I read Tolkiens’ passages about traversing Moria, I am there right along side the rest of the fellowship. I can feel the stone beneath my feet, the slight breath of air stirring my hair, hear the echo of my footfalls and the stirring of the Balrog.

Reading is quickly becoming a lost art in the modern age. Kids these days would much rather attend a flashy movie with lots of explosions, fast cars and scantilly clad women than curl up with a great book. Schools still teach them the mechanics of reading but there are fewer and fewer teachers to teach them the art and the joy 9f reading. That’s a very sad thing. Now if you will excuse me I must return to a space station at the edge of the galaxy under attack by those pesky aliens!

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One comment on “Are you a reader? or simply literate?

  1. I agree with a lot of what you have written. Kids have drifted further and further away from reading and are becoming more ipodified. In school, well I would like to think in most Australian schools at least, kids at the primary level are taught to use Freebody and Luke’s 4 Literacy Practices in order to become good readers. However an emphasis on the joy of reading is not lost, in fact our lecturers and tutors at uni really drill into us that reading for pleasure is something we should try to instill in our children. Although I must admit that as kids grow older, and they start high school, reading does become a chore and I think that is attributable to the lack of autonomy given to students in regards to text choice as well as the huge emphasis on ‘critically analyzing’ a text. I’m just glad though that we have books like Harry Potter which occasionally spring up and bring everybody back to the written word.

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