T(hinking)O(ut)L(oud): Literacy and Reading and Books

(TOL=Thinking Out Loud)

Yet again resurrecting the old blog… Not much time to write these days.

I am not a literacy theory student or a certified teacher. I’m a librarian — a systems librarian these days, to tell the truth. I manage a consortial ILS these days (Koha — hooray!), but questions like what Buffy Hamilton raised on Twitter tonight get me going and make me temporarily stop digging through mySQL databases or tickets or testing or email. Buffy’s sponsors of literacy posts at the DMLCentral blog have been very thought-provoking.

She posted this series of tweets:

For the first time in a long time I was on Twitter while she was posted these thoughts, and I fired back:


And that’s when I decided to write this post, the first in many, many months. Twitter’s character limits got in the way, and I have too many thoughts crashing into one another and they need to be shared. Bear with me just for a moment.

Again, I am not a literacy expert — the little I know solely comes from reading and listening to Buffy’s lines of thinking these days. I am not a certified teacher, either, so please don’t get all over me if I say something wrong or unkosher.

This conversation and numerous other mashed up discussions from the day (over stats, of all things!) has me questioning why people get so caught up in the container of what really matters — the STORY.

A newspaper has a multitude of stories.
A magazine.
A website is full of them.
Ads tell stories.
Movies — duh.
Graphic novels — ever read March??
Books — obviously (what about the different platforms of books?).
A sporting event.
A road sign.
And I’m getting side tracked.

I’ll returning to the last tweet I posted to Buffy:

Is it
to be entertained?
to learn?
to grow?
to think?
to escape?
to be challenged?
to carry out a task?
to gain understanding?
to build knowledge?

I’d argue the end goal of literacy, of reading, is all of those and much more than I can think of right now.

And how can those actions —
building —

be delivered?

Through written text, yes, but what about
simple conversations?
A piece of music — sung or played?
A sport?
Observing someone?
And again, so much more.

All of these? They are telling stories.

So why, do we simply recommend books as the normal medium to help people discover the joy of reading? Instead, what if we started asking people what story they want to find or learn or seek out and provide the possible mediums to that story?

What if, by coming to where people are at — helping them find the stories they want to discover, they can be introduced to all types of literacies – and learn and grow — and not simply shut down, because “the right book” — the right container — couldn’t be found?

This post originally stopped here, but completely independent of this post, I stumbled across a commercial — for whiskey of all things — that told a beautiful story. And I want to close with it. Watch it and THEN finish the post 🙂

Do people still need to learn to read? Yes! The basics still need to be taught. You grow through reading different variations of literature, and gain understanding of the world. But there was a reason this commerical’s story happened. And it wasn’t to fall in love with reading… The main character had a story he wanted to read, and to get there took a lot of work and a lot of different containers to learn to read, before he came back to the first story (I’m being deliberately vague, in case you skipped the video).

I may unpack this further. Or it may stand alone, as a simple thinking out loud exercise. What do you think?

2 thoughts on “T(hinking)O(ut)L(oud): Literacy and Reading and Books”

  1. This commercial goes so perfectly with this post. I always struggle with my choice of reading and “entertainment”. I hardly ever read non-fiction because I want more of an escape and then I always feel bad for it. I think once I am done with my Master’s and have been out of school I will grow to appreciate non-fiction more, but sometimes I need an escape. I am also a fast reader and when I read non-fiction I have to read a lot slower and get frustrated. When we were going through Dave Ramsey’s class I remember him making comments several times about how millionaires read non-fiction books. I know this has to do with always learning, but I agree with what you said about how we all continuously learn through different mediums. I think we all learn and grow from different sources.

    This conversation also reminds me of my sister and I when we were growing up. I LOVED reading and she hated it. For her she learned more from music and art, but that was looked down upon more than reading. I would have loved to have her musical and artistic abilities, while she would have loved my academic abilities. As an adult she has found the love of reading, but she will always learn the best through artistic expression.

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