Engaging with the written word

Have you thought about how you engage with the written word?  Sometimes, it is words combined with pictures on a screen – Instagram, memes, blogs, etc.  Sometimes, it is a personal experience with paper and pen.  Sometimes, it is a tactile experience with a magazine, book or newspaper.  The written word can appear in a glance, or can be deeply pondered.  But, it has become apparent that how we engage with the written word is very different that it used to be.  And, may be highly dependent on how the information is presented.

Blog post graphic book

During the past week, I have encountered numerous stories discussing how reading has changed.  How we as learners, educators, and consumers of the written word interact with the messages and ideas being conveyed.  Our society has changed.  We read mostly in snippets, brief interactions.  And, this is driven by our devices: computers, smart phones, tablets, billboards, ads, etc.  We may or may not actively engage with a more complex reading format: a longer article, or a book.

This change in reading behavior presents a significant challenge to educators, how do we get students engaged with the text to think more deeply about an idea?  How do we get individuals to really comprehend the information being presented? How do we encourage an imagination?  There is obviously no clear answer.

Add to this the fear of the summer time reading slump, i.e. not reading over the summer; and we have to consider how individuals engage with reading.  For parents, there are some resources that are available.  Local summer reading programs at the public library.  Many school systems send home summer reading lists.  And, then there are organizations like Reading is Fundamental or Unite for Literacy. So, access to reading is available.  The trick is to engage in the activity.

Reading is a skill that needs practice.  We also need to engage in different types of reading, because our comprehension skills are different based upon method of interaction with the words.  It is time to encourage some quite time with a physical book in addition to reading an e-book.  We also need to engage in the act of writing, note taking, and pondering.  Perhaps if we do that more ideas and solutions may appear.

A gift that continues to enhance a life

As the holiday season is in full swing – many of us are looking for that special something to give.  For me it has always been books.  I love to read.

Reading enhances many aspects of life – it opens doors, it expands curiosity, it activates the imagination, it stimulates thinking, and it promotes communication.  For many of us – reading is second nature – but for some – it is a luxury.  For example in a recent interview with David Risher on NPR he tells of an experience in Ecuador where the library was locked and children did not have access to the books.  This experience has inspired him to work with tools that are available in developing countries to get books into the hands of children.  While it may seem counter intuitive – eReaders and cell phones – seem to be a great solution.

There is a meme going around on Facebook – showing a child sitting on Santa’s lap saying that the toys wanted for Christmas included space travel, rocket ships, jungles, animals, etc.  Santa gives him a library card.  

As a child we moved all the time (I am from a military family) – one of the first places I went in our new hometown was the library as it opened the doors to the community and that is where the books were.  My home is filled with books (my husband made the mistake when we first were married saying he would never question my expenditures on books – not sure he still shares that sentiment as we now have more books than many small town libraries).  

So the gift of reading to me is invaluable – reading to children is a way of spreading that gift.  Books allow people to explore without every leaving the comfort of their favorite chair.  We have gotten away from reading due to the television and video on demand – but reading, at least to me, is much more expanding and thought provoking.  

Reading teaches, reading shares life stories, reading opens opportunities, and creates visions.

So – this holiday season – or anytime – give the gift that expands a person’s world – a book.

For you science lovers – here is a link to the podcast from the AAAS describing this year’s science book recommendations for young readers. My particular favorite is Rosie Revere, Engineer.