Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Reading, Between the Lines



...it is only in a literate culture that the past’s inconsistencies have to be accounted for, a process that encourages skepticism and forces history to diverge from myth.
Recently I was catching up on my reading (sitting on a street car allows such habits) when I found this article in the New Yorker called the Twilight of Books. As a Canadian, I'm used to bookworms like those on CBC radio (who seem to fetishize books and authors) complaining about the increase in television and video games and the decline of books. As a person who loves books (with big pictures) and whose brain is mostly interested in visual stimuli, I've always wondered why book nerds get so hopped up on illiteracy and reading. There are hundreds of literacy advocacy groups but I can't think of a single one that promotes "visual literacy" (plenty of Canadians are visual illiterates). I've always wondered what was the case to be made for reading. Why is it important? After all, for most of humanity's existence we've lived in oral societies without any written language. What's the big deal if our dependence on television, film, gaming and the Internet means we revert back to an oral tradition?

Turns out that reading actually changes your brain and that the only way we can have any kind of critical analysis of a topic (be it religion, business, art or science) is through reading. So all you teachers out there, read this article (or download and print it) and arm yourselves with the kind of knowledge you'll need to convince a kid to put down the x-box controller and pick up Halo, Books 1-3.

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