Expanding on How We Define Reading

Even as an adult, I still struggle with how I define myself as a reader. I spent years in post-secondary education, pursuing first a Bachelor of Arts in English and then moving forward to graduate school, earning two Master degrees in English and Creative Writing. In both my undergraduate and graduate careers, I received outstanding grades and recognition as a “good writer” from my former professors. Yet, despite my successes as a student, I unfortunately suffered from the dreaded imposter syndrome. I was secretly ashamed in not being that typical “bookworm” which is how many individuals perceive English majors like myself to be. I regret in not pushing myself at a younger age in maintaining a literature reading habit. It’s embarrassing because as someone who currently works with students in education, it would unintentionally make me appear as a hypocrite since I am not, as they say, “practicing” what I “preach” to students. However, I still have to remind myself that I shouldn’t feel so ashamed of myself. Even if I may not be that "bookworm" writer, I technically am an active reader too. If I’m not reading literary texts, then I’m browsing through articles on the Internet. If I'm feeling burned out and overwhelmed from work, I would sometimes let my mind relax through listening to a wide range of different genres of music, paying attention to the lyrics, melodies, and sounds. Or sometimes, I'd check out a documentary on Netflix, taking into account of their overall main message as I'm uncovering new information from its media source.

Additionally, considering that I’m fortunate enough in having a group of intelligent thinkers as my Facebook friends, I’m constantly absorbing their style of writing in my newsfeed. Since we are in an age where technology continues to have its hand in mandating how society should function and communicate, it is beneficial that I am quite proficient in creating texts within hyperspace as well. That way, I can acquire possible strategies that may aid my students with their readership.

For instance, in Freire’s “The Importance of the Act of Reading,” cites an example of how he learned reading from his personal narrative by arguing that the surrounding environment around him was a living form of text for him. He states: “The texts, words, letters of that context were incarnated as well in the whistle of the wind, the clouds of the sky, the sky’s color, its movement; in the color of flag, the shape of leaves, the fragrance of flowers – roses, jasmine; in tree trunks; in fruit rinds: the varying color tones of the same fruit at different times —- the green of a mango when the fruit is first forming, the green of a mango fully formed, the greenish yellow of the same mango ripening, the black spots of an overripe mango — the relationship among these colors, the developing fruit, its resistance to our manipulation, and its taste. It was possibly at this time, by doing it myself and seeing others do it, that I learned the meaning of the word squashing” (Freire, 6).

From that quotation, it made me think back from my own narrative. As a child, I too viewed the world and also incorporated vocabulary with what I saw. Seeing signs on the streets, I would visualize the redness of the stop sign and the black and white scrapings on the fading speed limit signs. Whenever the autumn leaves would break away from its branches, I’d visualize ‘orange’ and ‘red’ as each leaf fell against the grass. I’d even think of ‘falling’ as I looked at the falling leaves.

While I can’t eloquently re-paint what I envisioned during my younger years like Freire, my point is that what we learn isn’t restrictive to just the classroom setting but also with our daily life. I think that is why it’s essential to perhaps have students spend a day documenting their surroundings and have them metacognitively write about what they see and what thoughts they’re envisioning and even question their own reactions to their metacognition. By doing so, it would teach them that practicing academic reading and writing doesn’t just come from just their interpretation of literary texts but also how they interpret and react to their surroundings.

How I was able to synthesize my understanding of each of the articles was through my schema and my emotional response to the notion of readership and literacy. Considering my bias, I felt quite engaged with each of the articles. And interestingly enough, I found it interesting that all of the articles appeared to equally share the same idea that how we define literacy needs to be re-evaluated. To read can’t simply be limited to just reading a literary text and how we comprehend it. Instead, reading needs to be seen as much more complex than that. How we gained literacy wasn’t just through grammar lessons for it was also on how we incorporated with language and how our growing understanding of the English language encompassed our daily lives. So, with academic reading and writing, it must be approached that same way as well.

Additionally, I can’t help but be reminded of Gioia’s “On the Importance of Reading” in which he states “Readers play video games, watch television; they do these things, but they do them in a balanced way, versus people who are, increasingly, simply passive consumers of electronic entertainment “ (Gioia, 19). Basically, he argues that many readers these days tend to balance out their tasks. From my understanding, a reader would play a video game and then respond to what they see. Let’s say the gameplay is becoming difficult for a reader and so from there, the next challenge will require an analysis of the situation within the game and strategizing on how to solve that challenge. Additionally, during gameplay, a reader may respond on whether or not they’re invested with what a character may be doing or saying, depending on the genre of the game. As with passive consumers, Gioia then states that “The passive people come home, watch TV, play video games, go onto the Internet, talk on the phone, go back to the TV, put a DVD in – and then it’s time to go to bed” (Gioia, 19).

So, essentially, the passive consumers on the other hand don’t create a metacognitive conversation. They simply view the game as a game without re-evaluating on the game’s purpose and, let’s say, if the game creators had any problematic representation of gender stereotypes in their game. What I feel Gioia may be saying is that we as educators must be aware of how we should approach literacy and how we can convince students, who may be passive about anything in general, in creating metacognition within their daily routine as well. That way, they can establish on how to incorporate new ways in developing their critical thinking and writing skills through how they “read” their tasks outside of academia.

So, the question I have is just how can we as educators diversify our understanding of literacy and transfer that knowledge to our students? How can we expand on how we define the act of reading? I mentioned earlier in that my reading habits and affiliation with technology and Facebook can give me an advantage with future students since I can express on how I too can identify with their tension with readership and having that anxiety of not always being an active reader. However, I still need to configure a way in synthesizing all those ideas into a clear course plan that wouldn’t result in students becoming lost through an overabundance of literary and hypertexts along with extensive tasks where they’re supposed to be critical read every breathing second of their lives. Rather than me stressing over this notion, it may be best if I simply take this one step at a time and constantly review all my ideas and create a metacognitive conversation for myself as I continue researching and evaluating my own teaching theories.

Freire, Paulo, and Loretta Slover. “THE IMPORTANCE OF THE ACT OF READING.”

The Journal of Education, vol. 165, no. 1, 1983, pp. 5–11. JSTOR, Accessed 4 Sept. 2020.

Gioia, Dana. “On the Importance of Reading.” The Commonwealth, June 2006, pp. 18-24.

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